The Impact Just 30 More Minutes Of Sleep Can Have On High School Students

by Clint Edwards
hsyncoban: Getty

Can we talk about how badly bedtime — regardless of how old your kids are — absolutely sucks? I mean, I know you all know. It’s not a secret that getting kids to bed is like rolling a wiggling bolder into the bath tub, and then into pajamas, and finally into bed. Just the other night I actually screamed upstairs “YOU HAVE HAD ENOUGH HUGS!!” to my four year old.

But the real challenge isn’t my youngest — it’s my two older children. Norah is nine, and Tristan is 12, and getting them to bed on time isn’t just as simple as getting them in the tub, and reading a story. They both have homework. Tristan has soccer practice twice a week, and Norah has gymnastics once a week. They get home around 3:30 p.m., and between then and 8 p.m. (bedtime), it’s a maddening sprint of urging them to complete all their obligations, while they ask and ask and ask for screen time. It’s not unusual for the whole family to be at the table, eating dinner, my wife next to our son helping him with math, while I’m next to our daughter helping her with sentences, our four-year-old watching a tablet so she will be occupied.

I’ll be honest, this isn’t how I saw family life looking when I got into this whole parenting gig, but if we don’t cram it all in, there’s really no way I can get those kids to bed before 8 p.m.

I have witnessed my children dragging their feet in the morning when they don’t get enough sleep, but as it turns out, the consequences of not shutting down at the end of the day are steeper than I realized. According to the CDC’s National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, “A” students get an average of 30 more minutes of sleep per night (6.71 hours) when compared to “D” and “F” students (6.16 hours). Let’s be real, 30 minutes is a pretty small window of time.

Now does this mean that if you get your kids to bed on time that they will suddenly become A students? Probably not. But it does show that getting enough shut eye can put a child in a position to do better in school. But hey, I’m with you, the last thing I assumed was that a 30-minute sliver of time would make that big of a difference, but here we are.

Take last night for example. My son got his homework done right after school, ate an early dinner, and then went to soccer practice. He came home, took a shower, and BAM! It was already 8 p.m. He’d done everything he was supposed to do, and I was proud of him, so I let him stay up an hour later to play games as a reward. But as it turns out, perhaps that isn’t the best strategy.

If you are like our family, we monitor screen time pretty closely, because if I didn’t, all my kids would do is play games and watch Netflix. Nothing would get done, and they’d most likely never leave the house. However, we do use screen time as a reward, and on days like above, I feel like I’m between a rock and hard place. I want to reward my son for meeting his obligations, but at the same time, I don’t want him falling asleep in class because he stayed up playing games, something that has happened in the past.

But I suppose this is the reality of being a parent these days. 90% of it is trying to regulate and monitor screen time, while also working hard to teach your children how to meet obligations.

Naturally, the question I had is: How much sleep should my children be getting? The good people at Savvysleeper put together a pretty interesting analysis of the CDC’s report on high school sleep habits. According to their analysis, children ages 13 to 18 should be getting 8 to 10 hour of sleep per night. However, 71% of children do not receive the recommended amount of sleep. And like I discussed above, the big killer of sleep is screen time.

Among high school students not getting enough sleep at night, roughly 1 in 3 admitted to spending between two and three hours watching TV on school days. While about 19 percent said they didn’t watch any TV on school days, 14 percent of students juggled their school workload, the possibility of extracurricular activities, and four hours (or more) of TV every night before finally making it to bed. As for video games, among students not getting enough rest during the school week, roughly 28 percent spent over four hours on school nights playing video games.

What this all boils down to is realizing the importance of sleep, and helping our children understand it as well. And I get it: every time I tell my children to shut it all down and go to bed, they act like it’s a hate crime. With my 12-year-old, just saying good morning is enough for him to shoot daggers at me, so that really is just standard operating procedure. But this all should give us a little more motivation to send those kids to bed early because all it takes is 30 minutes to make a lasting impact.