If there’s a right time to be more relaxed about bedtime, it’s the school holidays. However there’s plenty of research showing that active learners should stick to regular bedtimes as much as possible. So is there is a link between AQE learning and sleep?
How much sleep is enough?
If your child is preparing for transfer tests this year, why not do a quick check to make sure they are getting the right amount of sleep?
Sleep is so important for learning. The study of memory now seems like a science in itself, and there’s enough evidence to show that getting your child’s sleep patterns right can have a big effect on their academic achievement.
This post will unpick some of the research about sleep and memory and show you how you can use the science to help your child prepare for transfer tests.
10-11 hours sleep
The National Sleep Foundation says school-age children need 10-11 hours every night. So if they get up at 8am, they need to be asleep between 9-10pm. (By the way, according to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need between 7-9 hours sleep every night, but let’s tackle one thing at a time!)
Why is sleep so important for children preparing for AQE?
Apart from the obvious bonus, like helping them stay alert and not get grumpy from sleep deprivation, plenty of scientific evidence shows that good quality sleep actually helps improve their memory.
What’s the link between sleeping and learning?
Learning new things creates connections between the neurons in your child’s brain. Memory recall depends partly on their ability to piece together fragments of information. This consolidation process also happens when they sleep.
In fact, learning shortly before sleeping may be better than learning in the morning! One recent study dealing with declarative memory (absorbing and recalling facts) found that participants had better recall the following day if they learnt facts shortly before they slept – “sleep is most beneficial to memory 24hr later if it occurs shortly after learning”.*
It’s not clear why learning improves when sleep follows quickly afterwards, but the science is pretty clear that it does. Rather than thinking of sleep as a passive process, remember that our brains are very active when we sleep. It could be that sleep helps your child’s learning become more deeply embedded in their brain.
5 tips to help improve your child’s sleep habits
- Wake them at roughly the same time every day, including weekends and holidays – tricky!
- Get them active during the day, especially in the morning.
- Set a relaxing, repetitive routine every night before bed.
- Keep bedrooms cool and dark.
- Turn off screens long before bedtime (and obviously don’t have TV/screens in their bedrooms).
How can more sleep help your child prepare for AQE?
It’s not just that getting enough sleep keeps your child alert and ready to learn. The learning process actually continues as they sleep. Timing their learning before sleep may help embed knowledge more strongly in their brains, making it easier for them to recall facts when they need them.
A great, easy idea to try now is to learn some important facts shortly before bedtime. You can do your own experiment and see if it helps your child recall the information the next day.
It’s a good idea to chat with your child about how good sleep habits can help them learn and succeed in school. Even share the science in this post to back you up. And always be positive about sleep (try not to use an early night as a sanction!)
You can find other easy and surprising tips on this blog to help you guide your child through the transfer test process. Find out more here about how blueberries can improve your memory, among other easy tips.
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If you want to read the science
* Payne JD, Tucker MA, Ellenbogen JM, Wamsley EJ, Walker MP, et al. (2012) Memory for Semantically Related and Unrelated Declarative Information: The Benefit of Sleep, the Cost of Wake.