How Lack of Sleep Affects Learning in Children

Written by: Jennifer Fantich, M.A., CCC-SLP

Speech-Language Pathologist

4 Ways That Lack of Sleep Can Affect Learning in Children

Children who are not getting enough sleep will see negative effects in regard to planning, organization, attention, memory and behavior. Read on to understand exactly how these areas are affected by lack of sleep in children.

  1. Planning & Organizational skills:

Not getting enough sleep affects how children think. Though temporary, sleep deprived children may experience a weakness in the part of the brain that manages planning, organization and problem solving. Examples of this may be seen when children lose track of items, like school supplies. Instead of being able to focus on their work, they may, instead, focus their energy of looking for lost items and perseverating on their ‘stuff’ as opposed to their ‘responsibilities’

  • Attention:

Much like the weakness the brain feels in the areas of planning and organizing without enough sleep, studies show similar effects in the area of attention and focus. When children are sleep deprived their brain waves can lapse into brief sleep-like patterns while they’re awake. This can be seen when kids appear to be ‘spaced out’ in class or at home. Careless errors may be made, and they may struggle with concentration.

  • Mood & Behavior:

Children can display moody behavior when they’re tired. They appear to operate using less self-control than normal. It is common to observe behaviors related to agitation, frustration and loss of temper in children who aren’t getting enough sleep. How will this affect their schoolwork? Children may give up easily on tests or assignments. Additionally, results in their loss of temper may end with consequences that remove them from their classroom or social opportunities with their peers.

  • Memory:

Lack of sleep can also have negative effects on memory. With challenges related to focus, children will also struggle to remember new and important information. Not only is it more difficult to remember new information, but it is also tough to store and apply new information that they cannot remember. Kids who are tired may also work at a slower pace because it is hard for them to remember information they just learned/heard.