Sleep and academics

Current research indicates that technology overuse is causally related to difficulty falling asleep, interrupted sleep, and has a detrimental effect on a child’s ability to pay attention and perform academically.

Why is this?

In my capacity as a pediatric occupational therapist and sensory specialist, I am aware of three critical factors for achieving optimal child health and academic performance, and those are to move, touch and be touched, and to connect with other human beings and nature. These critical factors of movement, touch and human connection are grossly limited in this day and age of technology overuse, and have significantly impacted on children’s quality of sleep, and also their subsequent ability to perform academically at school.

Can you explain this further?

An average of 8 hours per day combined technology use by children, with 75% of children having TV’s in their bedrooms, means that many children are using technology unsupervised at all hours of the day and night. This extensive use of technology means that children are not getting enough exercise, fresh air, rough and tumble play, imaginary play, socialization with peers and family, (the list goes on and on) to enable adequate sensory, motor, speech, social and cognitive development. Children require 3-4 hour per day of rough and tumble play to meet milestones for development. These activities provide the human body and mind with what it needs to grow and be productive, sensation.

Sensory input to the vestibular (balance) sensory system promotes postural tone, motor coordination and achieves optimal arousal states needed to focus and learn. Sensory input to the tactile (touch) sensory system grounds body energy and reduces anxiety, creating a relaxed and focused child. Sensory input to the proprioceptive (muscles) sensory system achieved through “heavy work” techniques such as push, pull, lift and carry (gardening, chores, climbing trees) allow an outlet for pent up body energy, reducing anger and frustration. Nature is the purest form of sensory input, and has been shown to reduce ADHD, improve sleep, and reduce aggression.

So…disconnecting to reconnect with family, friends and nature will go a long way toward improving sleep and academic performance!

What do children need to sleep and prevent school failure?

In order to sleep properly at night, attain optimal development, and do well in school, experts (American Academy of Pediatrics and Cris Rowan) state that children should not use more than 1-2 hour per day of combined technology, get 3-4 hours per day of rough and tumble play (movement), converse and eat dinner at the dining table with no TV (human connection), and have one half hour at night cuddling with parent(s) on bed reading books, talking, playing (touch).

I’ve attached my Ten Steps to Successfully Unplug Families from Technology with numerous suggestions that you could pick and choose from, or reprint in its entirety.

I suggest families follow a “technology free” diet of one hour per day (during dinner), one day per week (Saturday), and one week per year (holiday) to manage balanced technology use. To help, I’ve developed two products the Unplug’in Game and the Live’in Resource Guide. Unplug’in takes players through four dimensions of Me, We, Earth and Spirit, building confidence and skill so they can unplug themselves. Live’in contains tools and techniques to help schools and families achieve a balance between technology use, and what they need to grow and succeed.

Have a GREAT day!


Cris Rowan, BScOT, BScBi, SIPT, Approved Provider AOTA
CEO Zone’in Programs Inc.
6840 Seaview Rd.
Sechelt, BC V0N3A4
604-885-0986 office, 604-885-0389 fax, 604-740-2264 cell
email crowan@zonein.ca
website www.zonein.ca