Maltese students are among the least sleep-deprived in the world, according to studies carried out by Boston College.
The findings came out of data gathered for global education rankings, namely the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).
The main results of the two studies were published last year, and Malta performed relatively poorly. It ranked 35th out of 45 countries as far as reading as concerned, 40th out of 50 on science, and 28th out of 50 on maths.
But researchers also sought to look into the influence of home life, and levels of sleep was one of the issues looked into, through questionnaires for teachers, pupils and parents about sleep patterns, which were compared with pupils’ test results.
The findings suggest that sleep deprivation has an effect on pupils’ achievements – but also that it is far less of an issue in Malta than it is in most other countries surveyed.
Fewer than a quarter of pupils aged 9-10 were perceived to have suffered from lack of sleep – compared to a global average of 46.5%. The United States leads the pack, with 73% of 9 to 10-year-old students affected by lack of sleep.
Of course, sleep patterns are not the only factor influencing pupils’ achievements: sleep-deprivation may be high in high-performing countries such as Finland, and low in low-performing countries such as Azerbaijan.
But the effect on individual students’ results is still readily apparent, according to the researchers: lack of sleep may represent the difference between being high-performing and average.
“I think we underestimate the impact of sleep. Our data show that across countries internationally, on average, children who have more sleep achieve higher in maths, science and reading. That is exactly what our data show,” Chad Minnich, of the TIMMS and PIRLS International Study Centre, maintained.
Mr Minnich also stressed that the research showed that the effect of sleep deprivation also affected those who got enough sleep.
“Teachers are having to modify their instruction based on those children who are suffering from a lack of sleep. The children who are suffering from a lack of sleep are driving down instruction,” he remarked.
Research related to sleep suggests that the use of technology may have an effect on sleep patterns. Light projected from screens of laptops, smartphones and other such devices can disrupt the natural onset of sleep, leading to sleep deprivation over time.