Equity & Diversity

Sleep-Loss Impact Tied to Race, Income

By Linda Jacobson — February 20, 2007 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Sleepless nights can drag down academic performance for any child.

But a new study suggests that interrupted sleep can be an even bigger problem for African-American children and for those from lower socioeconomic levels.

Conducted by researchers from Auburn University and the University of Notre Dame, the study focuses on a sample of 166 African-American and Caucasian children ages 8 and 9 from a variety of socioeconomic levels.

The children each wore a small activity monitor for one week to measure their habits while they slept. They also kept diaries of their bedtimes and wake-up times, and gave reports of problems such as feeling sleepy during the day.

Cognitive tests measuring a range of different skills were used to determine how a child might be performing in school.

The results showed that when children slept well and had fairly consistent sleep schedules, the performance of African-American and poorer children was relatively similar to that of the white children on the tests.

But when their sleep was disrupted, black children from all income levels and children of both races from lower-income families did not perform as well on cognitive tests as did more affluent white children whose sleep was disrupted.

The findings held true even when specific sleep problems such as asthma were taken into account.

“The results build on a small but growing literature demonstrating that poorer sleep in children is associated with lower performance on school-related tests,” writes Joseph A. Buckhalt, a counseling and school psychology professor at Auburn and the study’s lead author.

Why African-American and disadvantaged children are more vulnerable to academic problems when they experience a lack of sleep is not yet known, he writes. Mr. Buckhalt recommends further research on the issue and on intervention strategies that might benefit minority and disadvantaged children.

The article, “Children’s Sleep and Cognitive Functioning: Race and Socioeconomic Status as Moderators of Effects,” appears in the January/ February issue of the journal Child Development.

A version of this article appeared in the February 21, 2007 edition of Education Week


Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Boosting Student and Staff Mental Health: What Schools Can Do
Join this free virtual event based on recent reporting on student and staff mental health challenges and how schools have responded.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
Practical Methods for Integrating Computer Science into Core Curriculum
Dive into insights on integrating computer science into core curricula with expert tips and practical strategies to empower students at every grade level.
Content provided by Learning.com

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Race Is a Big Factor in School Closures. What You Need to Know
Districts are more likely to close majority Black schools, researcher says.
5 min read
Key in keyhole on wood door
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Equity & Diversity Opinion There's a Difference Between Equity and Equality. Schools Need to Understand That
Equity looks different depending on the situation, and it's not always straightforward. That can cause confusion.
15 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Equity & Diversity What the Research Says New National Data Show Depth of Disparities in a Chaotic Year of Schooling
The first federal civil rights data released since the pandemic show that inequities persisted even when school buildings shut down.
10 min read
Tanya Holyfield, a second grade teacher with Manchester Academic Charter School, teaches remote students from her classroom on March 4, 2021, in Pittsburgh.
Tanya Holyfield, a 2nd grade teacher at Manchester Academic Charter School, teaches remote students from her classroom on March 4, 2021, in Pittsburgh. New federal data from the 2020-21 school year show that longstanding inequities among groups of students did not change much even in a year when many students spent all or part of the year in remote and hybrid learning.
Andrew Rus/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP
Equity & Diversity Opinion Am I Anti-Equity? You Decide
The push for equity has taken us into territory where "pro-equity" ideologues are doing destructive things in the education space.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty