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 The Power of Sleep

Recent research is forcing us to rethink the way we value sleep. In a busy world that values activity and hard work, we know that sufficient sleep is crucial to students' well-being and academic success.

At Branksome Hall, we take this issue so seriously that we have been doing our own research on the subject. Branksome's Sleep Project is a peer-reviewed study of our students' sleep habits and how sleep affects their learning. Our 2010 research will be published in the IB Journal of Teaching Practice, at the end of February 2013.

"Only 15 per cent of adolescents get enough sleep, and sleep deprivation clearly affects academic performance," says Roberta Longpré, Head of Student Services, who led the Branksome research project.

The research sought to discover the following:
  • Do Branksome girls get enough sleep?
  • What effect does sleep have on their academic performance?
  • Does the amount of homework affect sleep and academic performance?
  • Do recreational technology activities, such as checking Facebook or sending text messages, affect sleep and academic performance?

In the 2010 study, Ms Longpré asked a group of 291 Branksome girls the following questions:
  • How long did you sleep last night?
  • How much time did you spend on homework last night?
  • Last night, after 8:00 p.m., were you on Facebook or YouTube, or did you send, receive or check text messages or e-mail?

Link between sleep and grades
We also found that, as hours of sleep and hours of homework both increase, so do grade averages — to an optimal point of seven to eight hours of sleep, and three to four hours of homework. We found a significant difference in the marks of those who get three to four hours of sleep, compared with those who get seven or eight hours. The results about grades and hours of sleep held true for both Grade 11 and Grade 12 students. For Grade 10 students, there was a slight jump in grade averages for students who had eight hours of sleep or more.

In summary, for teenaged girls aged 15 to 17, we found that seven to eight hours of sleep, and sometimes more, is connected with good grades. Our research also showed that using technical devices after 8:00 p.m. cuts into the sleep that our students get.

Here are a few tips to help girls sleep well…

Five tips...
  • Turn off cell phones or computers at night.
  • And don't have the blue-green glow of radios or VCRs in her bedroom, as it mimics the glow of dawn light and is known to disrupt sleep.
  • Ensure your daughter's bed is only for sleeping, not for watching TV or playing games.
  • Develop a sleep routine; ensure girls have a 35- to 40-minute slow-down ritual.
  • Keep the bedroom cool, dark and quiet at night.

We've taken our sleep research and are working to educate all of our students, and their teachers and parents, about the importance of a good night's sleep. In addition to educating our community, we have adjusted our timetable to address students' need for rest and sleep. For example, we have instituted a sleep recovery day for Middle and Senior School students every Wednesday, when school starts at 9:30 a.m

To learn more about our research, hear from Roberta Longpré in this video >>

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