Kids’ sleep investigation could alter primary teaching methods

OK, I apologise in advance for that rather grandiose title. However, a recent research piece from the BBC Terrific Scientific Sleep Investigation—in partnership with the University of Oxford—suggests 9-11 year-old children have the best reactions in the afternoon.

Thousands of British school children aged 9-11 took part in the experiment, with some 900 kids’ responses being further analysed by the research team.

What they found was surprising on two levels.

Firstly, and contrary to what many believe, the children were more alert in the afternoon than in the morning.

This leads to the possibility that schools—many of whom currently teach more academic subjects such as maths and English in the morning—should switch their curriculum around so as to do that in the evening.

The second surprising result, bearing in mind the experiment was conducted around the March clock change, is that the kids’ sleep time increased and sleepiness reduced.

The experiment was conducted by asking children to keep a sleep diary for three days either side of the clock change on Sunday 26th March 2017. They then conducted tests to measure tiredness and reaction times in both the morning and afternoon on each day.

The results also found that the average 9-11 year-old child was getting nine-and-a-half hours of sleep per night – within the recommended 9-11 hours.

Whether these results make any difference to how schools create their lesson plans remains to be seen.

It’s also not clear whether these results would be similar across different age ranges. Personally I’d expect the results to skew significantly in the teenage years, once hormones kick in.

It is encouraging that kids of this age do seem to be getting a decent amount of sleep. Then again, with sleep deprivation being a serious concern in the population in general, and among children, we can’t say whether they simply made a special effort to get the recommended sleep while conducting the experiment.