Pay Attention to Sleep, Sleep to Pay Attention – November 12, 2014

There is an ongoing conversation going on in our school community about focus and attention. Parents, students and teachers all recognize that the ability of a student to pay attention and to stay focused during instruction is a key component in the pursuit of academic success. I think all of us at Beechwood would agree, that we would like to know more about what we can do to increase the ability of our young people to stay focused and be attentive. To that end, I am proud to announce the first in a series of articles that will be published in the Beechwood Weekly on focus, attention and the shape of a healthy life.

For this series of articles, we will be tapping into the expertise of two of our community members: Beechwood Board of Directors member and family physician, Dr. Marland Chancellor and our Academic Support Coordinator, Mrs. Diana Pantoja. Both have extensive experience observing, diagnosing and treating students with focus and attention and other learning issues. I believe that the knowledge they are sharing will be beneficial not only to those with identified conditions, but to all of students at Beechwood.

Interestingly both Dr. Chancellor and Mrs. Pantoja decided, independently of each other, to focus on the same issue for this week’s piece: the relationship between learning and sleep.

From Mrs. Pantoja:

Did you know that the amount of sleep a child gets directly impacts their ability to pay attention in class? In fact, sleepiness can look like symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Children may act hyper, lack focus or become easily distracted if they are not getting enough sleep at night. The average school-age child requires 10-11 hours of sleep each night, along with a consistent, soothing, winding-down time before bed.

From Dr. Chancellor:

Sleep can be considered a nutrient for the brain and the body, and is just as important for our bodies and minds as healthy food. Medical studies are showing that sleep deprivation is connected to repetitive, unwanted thoughts that distract us, especially thoughts about something bothersome. Stress and the inability to turn off negative thoughts cause moodiness and can even trigger major depression. Most people, children and adults, do not get enough sleep (6-12 year olds need 10-11 hours every night; adolescents need 9-9.5 hours; adults need 7-8 hours) and therefore are at high risk for inattention, moodiness and depression. And studies have shown that even a 15 minute change in sleep schedule can leave children drowsy and less attentive the next day, meaning that their ability to learn is diminished. So, let’s give ourselves healthy meals and healthy sleep, every day!

-Mr. Laurance