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Kids of color with sleep problems more likely to see effects on school performance

Sleep problems and related affects on school performance disproportionately affect children of color, a new study has found. File Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI
Sleep problems and related affects on school performance disproportionately affect children of color, a new study has found. File Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo

May 27 (UPI) -- First-graders who display signs of sleepiness in school are not as engaged in learning and exhibit behavior problems in class, a study published Thursday by Child Development found.

Higher teacher-reported child sleepiness was also linked with poorer academic performance among second-graders, the data showed.

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Teacher-reported sleepiness among first-graders, as well as parent-reported bedtime resistance and disordered breathing, predicted worse academic performance in second grade, the researchers said.

Previous research suggests that poor sleep health and related school problems disproportionately affected children of color from families of low socioeconomic status and those living in "disinvested" neighborhoods.

RELATED Study: Six to seven hours of sleep per night lowers risk for heart attack, stroke

Disinvested neighborhoods are those in which public and private funding, city services, or other necessary resources have been denied or withheld, and many are segregated along racial lines.

"Children in historically disinvested neighborhoods face systemic challenges of structural racism and poverty, which may increase their risk for poor sleep health and sleep disorders," study co-author Alexandra Ursache told UPI in an email.

"[Our] findings show that children's sleepiness in the classroom is related to observed classroom behavior and future academic achievement," said Ursache, an assistant professor of population health at New York University in New York City.

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Several studies have linked poor sleep quality and shorter sleep duration with poor academic performance and behavior problems for children of all ages.

For the study, 572 predominantly Black first-grade girls and boys from 10 schools in historically disinvested neighborhoods in New York City were assessed on sleep health, classroom behavior and academic achievement.

RELATED Study: Later school start times aid sleep duration, quality for adolescents, teens

All of the children were age 6 or 7, and more than half of the children in the study came from immigrant families.

For sleep health, parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire designed to assess their child's bedtime resistance, sleep duration and any sleep problems. The child's teachers were then asked to report on any daytime sleepiness.

The researchers used a coding system to assess the in-classroom behaviors of participating children, including signs that they were "actively engaged in learning," such as listening, nodding, sitting up and working on an assigned task.

They also looked for problem behaviors, including emotional problems.

A standardized academic achievement assessment was administered by trained research assistants to assess reading, math and writing ability for participating children once they reached second grade.

More teacher-reported child sleepiness was associated with less active engagement in learning in the classroom and more classroom behavior problems in first grade, the data showed.

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Higher teacher-reported child sleepiness and increased parent-reported sleeping problems were linked with academic achievement by second grade.

"Children in disinvested neighborhoods are more likely to be exposed to factors such as noise, environmental pollutants, [lower] access to physical activity amenities, high population density and safety concerns," Ursache said.

All of these factors "have been shown to be related to increased risk for poor sleep health and sleep disorders," she said.

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