Better sleep leads to better performance. In the classroom, on the field, and in life. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation and Sleep Number campaign, Sleep Smarter. Perform Better. campaign, is designed to raise awareness about the importance of improving child and youth sleep. Visit HealthierGeneration.org/SmarterSleep to access free healthy sleep resources and fun activities for children of all ages.
A new study finds that when students experience an academic setback such as a bad grade, the amount of cortisol—the so-called stress hormone—in their bodies typically spikes. For most students it drops back down to normal levels a day later, but for some it stays high. These students remain fixated on the setback and have difficulty moving forward.
The researchers analyzed the stress levels of students at two high schools in central Texas during an especially stressful time—the transition into high school. Students completed daily surveys asking about the stress they experienced, and daily saliva samples were collected to measure their cortisol levels.
A majority of these students—68 percent—experienced a drop in grades in the first semester and reported feeling stressed as a result. In how they handled that stress, two clear groups emerged. Students who believed that intelligence can be developed—a growth mindset—were more likely to see setbacks as temporary, and not only had lower overall cortisol levels but were able to return to lower levels shortly after a setback. Students who believed that intelligence is fixed, on the other hand, maintained high cortisol level for longer, said researchers—a stress response that tends to depress problem solving and intellectual flexibility.
CDC’s September 7, 2017 issue of The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report confirms that high school students reporting lower academic grades also report great health risk behaviors. In addition, data from the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) show that students with higher grades are less likely to participate in certain risk behaviors. While results do not prove a causal link, students who reported engaging in unhealthy behaviors struggle academically.
What is already known about this topic?
Studies have shown links between health-related behaviors and educational outcomes such as grades, test scores, and other measures of academic achievement; however, many of these studies have used samples that are not nationally representative or are out of date.
What is added by this report?
Analyses of nationwide 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey data (controlling for sex, race/ethnicity, and grade in school) reveal that high school students who received mostly A’s, mostly B’s, or mostly C’s had significantly higher prevalence estimates for most protective health-related behaviors and significantly lower prevalence estimates for most health-related risk behaviors compared with students with mostly D’s/F’s.
What are the implications for public health practice?
School health interventions can promote positive health behaviors and improve both health and academic outcomes for students. Evidence suggests that educational and public health institutions have a shared interest in promoting student health and that collaborative efforts have the potential to make important strides in improving the health and academic achievement of youths.
There’s a lot of talk about the benefits of family dinners, but what exactly are those benefits?
Many studies have linked family dinners with a wide-range of benefits, including lower rates of obesity, better academic performance, and even increased resilience against bullying. Dinnertime is also a perfect opportunity to catch up with your kids and talk over the day, and get closer to each other as you strengthen your relationship. Unwinding over a meal after a busy day at work and at school is a perfect time to allow kids to talk about what’s on their minds.
When you consider how many positive outcomes are associated with something as ordinary as having dinner with your kids, it becomes clear that this seemingly simple activity is one of the most important things families can do together.
Here are just some of the many ways regular family dinners can have a positive effect on your child’s development and behavior:
1. Better health and nutrition
Research has shown that when kids regularly eat dinner with their families, they will be more likely to have healthy eating habits and less likely to be obese.
Kids whose parents eat dinner with them regularly have these traits:
- Are less likely to be overweight
- Tend to eat more healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits and drink less soda
- Are more likely to continue to eat a healthier diet when they grow up and make their own choices
2. Strong mental, social, and emotional skills
Studies have shown that kids who regularly eat dinner with parents experience psychological and emotional benefits such as:
- Higher self-esteem and resilience
- More positive family interactions
- Lower rates of substance abuse
- Lower risk of teen pregnancy
- Lower rates of depression
- Better body image and reduced risk of developing an eating disorder
- Better social and emotional health (One study found that kids who have regular family routines such as eating dinner, reading, or playing together are more likely to have empathy, understand emotions, and form positive relationships with others, among other social and emotional health factors.)
3. Better performance in school and better behavior
Kids who eat with their parents regularly have been shown to perform better academically. Specifically, kids who regularly ate family dinners had the following traits:
- Higher grades
- Reduced risk for delinquency
- Ability to have complex conversations
- Stronger vocabulary skills and higher reading scores
While nothing we do as parents can guarantee that our kids will turn out to be happy, healthy, kind, and well-adjusted individuals, it’s clear that making family dinners a regular part of our daily schedules is a great way to boost kids’ chances of being healthier physically, mentally, and even emotionally.
The study team analyzed data from eight previously published papers and found, not surprisingly, that kids spent more time on their feet when these desks were used instead of traditional classroom furniture.
Standing desks were also linked to a decrease in sitting time ranging from 59 to 64 minutes per school day. In schools, children spend over 50 percent of the school day sitting when they are traveling to school, during class, at lunch, sometimes even during recess, and traveling home after school.
While one cannot easily reduce sitting time at lunch or during transportation, changing the classroom environment to be more conducive to standing may be an easy solution.
Reducing sedentary time among school-age children is important because inactivity is linked to a wide range of health problems including obesity and diabetes. Some previous research has also linked sedentary time to poor academic achievement and low self-esteem.
For the current study, researchers focused on standing desks used in first through sixth grades. Students in the studies were around eight to 12 years old, on average, and the studies ranged in size from eight to 337 participants.
The types of desks varied across the studies, with some configurations fixed at a standing height and other adjustable options that allowed students to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.
Five of the studies tracked the effect of these desks on standing time. In two studies, children spent significantly more time standing after they got the desks than they did before, with increases ranging from about 26 percent to 31 percent. In two other studies, children stood 24 minutes longer per school day with standing desks.
One study also looked at screen time, often used as a proxy for sedentary behavior, and found that after standing desks were put in classrooms, students spent 71 fewer minutes each day watching television and using computer.
For more, visit bit.ly/1PsKFhB Pediatrics, online January 22, 2016.
Kids often have trouble getting back to their regular school routine after the summer months of playtime and sunshine. Some children may feel nervous before their first day because of all the change that comes with moving on to the next grade level. Luckily these worries are only temporary! These tips from Kids Health will make sure you and your child are prepared to check out of summer and check back into school.
Battling the Butterflies – Try and transition kids into a consistent school-night routine a week before school starts. Also make sure that they:
- Get enough hours of sleep
- Eat a healthy breakfast
- Write down need-to-know info for classes to help them remember details
- Have them organize what they need the night before
Back-to-School To-Do’s – To help reduce anxiety for both child and parent, heres a handy checklist:
- Will kids need a change of clothes for PE or art class?
- Do your kids know not to overload their backpacks and stow them safely?
- Will your kids buy lunch at school or bring it from home?
- Have you stocked up on all of the necessary school supplies?
What About After School? – To ensure kids are safe and entertained, look into programs for after school. Getting involved in these activities:
- Provides some adult supervision
- Helps develop kids’ interests and talents
- Introduces kids to new people and helps develop social skills
- Keeps kids out of trouble
Helping with Homework – To help kids get back into the after school work swing of things:
- Make sure there is a distraction free place for them to work in
- Never do their homework yourself only offer help
- Don’t let kids watch TV or have their phones while studying
- Review assignments nightly to make sure they have completed and understand everything