Small increases in sleep improve grades


Published: 4Apr2016

By Cynthia Lee, McGill Newsroom

​Family and community involvement key in empowering students to make healthier choices regarding their sleep

Elementary school-age children who improved their sleep habits also improved in their academic performance, according to a study by researchers at McGill University and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in partnership with the Riverside School Board in Montreal.

Using a collaborative approach, called Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR), the team developed a program in conjunction with educators using experiential learning to provide students with competencies needed for real-world success by addressing real-world problems and situations through teacher directed and facilitated learning. “We found that cumulative average extension of five nights × 18.2 min = 91 min in total had a significant impact on report card grades”, says McGill professor and lead researcher Reut Gruber.

The method

Six interactive classes, two hour sessions, given over a six-week period, were offered during school time by the students’ homeroom teachers.

Gruber’s research team, in collaboration with Gail Somerville from Riverside School Board in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, studied 74 healthy children between 7 and 11 years of age. 

Selected materials

Teacher Activity

Materials were tailored to the child’s level, for example, here is a video for the Cycle 1 (Grades 1 and 2) group:

Parents attached the actiwatch to the child’s non-dominant wrist at bedtime for four weeknights and provided their child’s most recent report card. They kept a diary of their child’s daily bedtime and wake time (sleep log) during the same period.

Worth the effort

Participation in the program yielded improvements in sleep and report card grades. Specifically, participation in the intervention was associated with improved grades in English and mathematics.

The takeaway for parents

  • Small cumulative sleep extension may lead to improved academic performance
  • Parents are advised to ensure their children get sufficient amount of healthy sleep every night.

The takeaway for schools

  • Re-evaluate how to encourage integration of sleep education programs to the health curriculum

School-based Sleep Education Program Improves Sleep and Academic Performance, by Reut Gruber, Gail Somerville, Paul Enros, Lana Bergameme, Laura Fontil and Soukina Paquin is published in the journal Sleep Medicine: 10.1016/j.sleep.2016.01.012

Previous research from Prof. Gruber’s lab: add link

To contact Prof. Gruber directly: reut.gruber [at] ()

Contact Information

Cynthia Lee
Media Relations Office - McGill University
cynthia.lee [at]
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