Dr. Kathie F Nunley
all the research cropping up lately about sleep, educators, parents,
and school boards are becoming increasingly concerned about students'
sleep habits. The latest research is showing that sleep not only
is a time for cells and general body tissues to heal, refresh,
and repair, it is also the time when our brain maintenance is
in full swing. Sleep is the time when nerve cells branch in our
brains, hardwiring in the day's learning. Children who are sleep
deprived after learning new information are unable to process
and use that information as well as children who are not sleep
So just how
much sleep is enough sleep? While individual bodies vary, there
are some general rules of thumb for sleep. We've heard for years
that we need 8 hours of sleep at night, but the truth is that
the length varies widely and the amount tends to decrease with
need tremendous amounts of sleep not only because they are growing,
but because their brains require a great deal of maintenance time.
So how much is enough? What you really should be doing is going
to bed at night and sleeping until your body says, "OK, we're
done here, wake up." Unfortunately most of us override the body's
own system with such things as alarm clocks, thereby depriving
ourselves of a properly maintained brain.
adult, 33- 45 years of age needs 7 hours of sleep a night. This
means, that if you need to wake at 6 am, you should be sleeping
by 11:00 PM. That doesn't seem to be an impossible task for most
adults. But let's look at school-aged brains.
high schooler needs 8.5 hours of sleep. A middle schooler, 10
hours. Children in elementary grades first through fourth should
be getting 10.5 and preschoolers, 11 hours of sleep.(2)
their brain's own maintenance department is losing out on the
opportunity to develop their brains and their intellect to its
full capacity. Because most middle and high-schooler's bodies
are running on an "owl" day rhythm, meaning their bodies have
a tendency to stay up late at night and sleep later in the day,
it makes it nearly impossible for them to go to bed early enough
at night to get all the sleep they need and still wake in time
for school. After all, how many middle schoolers do you
know who can go to sleep at 8:30 at night in order to be rested
for a 6:00 am wake up time?
How many of
America's students are sleep deprived? Ask yourself, at your school,
what percentage of students have been woken up this morning by
artificial means, i.e.: alarm clocks, parents, siblings? That's
the percentage of students in your school who are not getting
the rest they need. A bit frightening I think.
*Binks, et.al, Sleep, 1999(May), V. 22(3),
*Wolfson, A. 1998. Child Development, Vol 69(4) 875-887.
*Blunden, S., et.al, 2000. Journal of Clinical & Experimental
Neuropsychology, Vol 22(5) 554-568.
* Stickgold, R., et. al. 2000. Nature Neuroscience, Vol 3(12)
Huffman (1994). Psychology, 3rd Ed. John Wiley &
F. Nunley is an educational psychologist, author, researcher and
speaker living in southern New Hampshire. Developer of the Layered
Curriculum® method of instruction, Dr. Nunley has authored
several books and articles on teaching in mixed-ability classrooms
and other problems facing today's teachers. Full references
and additional teaching and parental tips are available at: http://Help4Teachers.com
Kathie (at) brains.org