Creative Child

Better Sleep, Smarter Kids?

Could an earlier bedtime bolster your child’s creativity and problem-solving skills? Slumbering science suggests it might.
by Erin J. Bernard


Corroborating research from the University of Notre Dame suggests that sleep may also benefit intelligence and creativity by providing the growing brain with a much-needed break from incoming information. The wonder of childhood is its novelty, but the brain craves uninterrupted time to process all that sensory data.

Conversely, inadequate sleep may beget learning problems that persist far into a child's future. The National Sleep Foundation has found that sleepiness makes it harder for kids to manage impulsivity and emotions in class. These symptoms can be mistaken for a learning disability such as attention deficit disorder, and over time, may cause a child to fall far behind.

In one NSF-cited experiment, children were sent to bed at a later-than-normal hour every night for a week. Then, the same kids were instructed to sleep at least 10 hours a night for another week. Teachers, who weren't privy to the schedules, reported far more problems when children had gone to bed later.

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For better or worse, these effects may be long-term. Lack of adequate sleep is one of the surest predictors of underachievement in children and preadolescents, according to NSF. Kids are simply too exhausted to concentrate, grades slip, and learning spirals.

How much sleep is enough?

The science varies, but Notre Dame researchers suggest that 3-to-5-year-olds should get 11-13 hours per night, while school-aged children should sleep 10-11 hours.


The National Sleep Foundation:

Research study: "Human Relational Memory Requires Time and Sleep":

Harvard University Division of Sleep Medicine:

University of Notre Dame:

Erin J. Bernard is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer from Portland, Oregon. Before becoming a writer, Erin worked as a nanny and an ESL classroom teacher. She taught English at a Montessori school in Mexico and then ran an after-school language program in South Korea. Erin is the editor of the parenting guide, “Instructions Not Included: A Pediatrician’s Prescription for Raising the Best Kids on the Block,” written by Irwin H. Berkowitz, MD.

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