A Dublin City University study shows a notable improvement in children’s sleep behaviours by implementing a short school and home-based programme.
The link between inadequate sleep levels in children and poor engagement with school is well documented, with poor sleep duration causing excessive daytime sleepiness, which leads to problems with concentration, attention and cognitive functioning.
This study carried out at the Educational Disadvantage Centre, DCU Institute of Education, has found that by implementing a five-week intervention programme, the attitudes of school children towards their own sleep behaviour, their motivation to improve their sleep health and their approach to using electronic media before bedtime, greatly improves.
Notable improvement in child-reported daytime sleepiness, particularly among high-risk children - 63% of participants reported feeling that they needed more sleep going to school, post-intervention this was reduced to 32%
Improvements in both weekday and weekend bed and wake times, with an increase in children going to bed before 11pm post intervention - before the intervention, 75% of the group were going to bed before 11pm, post-intervention, this rose to 96%
Post-intervention, 75% of the group reported that they would go to bed earlier in future
Increased awareness of the negative impacts of the use of electronic media on sleep
The programme includes curricular-based lessons on sleep health in school; parental involvement in the form of an information session with a professional sleep health consultant; and sleep diaries by children, allowing them to reflect on their own sleeping habits.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Paul Downes, Director of the Educational Disadvantage Centre and co-author of the report, said:
“This inexpensive, brief intervention reveals real change in sleep behaviour patterns on nights before schooldays and awareness of this issue among these pupils in this DEIS primary school, albeit in this small sample. It offers real promise for replication and development elsewhere.”
Previous research carried out for the Educational Disadvantage Research Centre has shown that almost two-thirds of pupils were taught by teachers who said that their teaching was limited to some extent or a lot because pupils were not getting enough sleep.
This intervention, which is innovative in its approach, provides a possible model for implementing a sleep health programme in the Irish primary curriculum to address the current Irish national policy neglect of this issue. There is a glaring silence on this key educational and health issue of sleep deficits which will hopefully be remedied in the next National Children's Policy Framework. We would certainly welcome a broader investigation into the potential of school-based interventions.”
The study, published in the Irish Educational Studies journal, was carried out by Ciara Hargadon and Dr. Paul Downes, of the Educational Disadvantage Centre at DCU’s Institute of Education. The study involved 24 sixth-class pupils in an Irish urban school context of high poverty.