Research corner

27th February 2015 at 00:00

`Sleep duration, schedule and quality among urban Chinese children and adolescents: associations with routine after-school activities'

by Jiang, X, Hardy, L L, Baur, L A et al, Plos One, January 2015


It's entirely possible that your students could be losing sleep over the homework they are set - but not in the way you think.

New research from China surveyed a cross section of schoolchildren aged 9-13 living in Shanghai to find out how their after-school activities impacted on their sleep quality. More than 6,000 students took part in the survey, which asked about their sleep habits, homework and commute to school, as well as how much time they spent on extracurricular activities and using electronic devices.

Despite the mean sleep duration being nine hours, 30 per cent of students reported daytime tiredness. In addition, girls were more likely to sleep less and go to bed later, a gender split that became wider as students aged.

But rather than worries about homework, it appears the work itself was keeping students up: later sleep times were associated with more time being spent on homework tasks. However, another key contributor to late bedtimes was spending time on mobile devices.

So do the researchers advise a reduction in both screen time and homework? Fortunately not. Many teachers will be thrilled to hear the academics do not recommend that less homework should be set as a result of their findings. Instead, they suggest exploring "intervention strategies such as limiting children's use of electronic screen devices after school".

Sarah Cunnane

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