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The Importance of Breakfast and Sleep

Every now and again I am amazed by how ‘exhausted’ some children seem on arriving at school. A quick glance around a Hall full of children at Assembly or Mass and one can see the effects of either lack of breakfast or insufficient sleep.

Earlier this week I quizzed some of our pupils about their morning routines, breakfast contents and the times they went to bed. The answers varied, but, I am sure that I have a few parents worried that their kids told a few home truths. Fear not, no names mentioned herein.

At Marist Brothers Linmeyer we try to ensure that our pupils are given as much opportunity as possible to look after their mental and physical well-being within the time constraints of the school day. My worry is that certain pupils may not be given sufficient “fuel” early in the day to get them through their busy daily schedules. For the pupils to make the most of their day they need to sufficiently fuel their body early with the ‘right stuff’.

Some pupils, mainly boys, told me they were not hungry in the mornings, which could be a result of the morning rush, eating a full meal late in the evening or late snacking. To ensure that glucose or blood sugar levels are at their optimal when school begins, the pupils need a good breakfast. Again, research (and experience) tells us that the effects of a skipped breakfast are short attention span, lack of alertness, longer reaction time, low blood sugar and decreased work productivity. For school going children, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A good breakfast is one that provides at least one third of the day’s calories.

Please encourage your children to eat a large, balanced breakfast. We all know that breakfast is a great way to get more fibre into our diets but please beware of cereals that are prepared with excessive sugar, salt, fat, and additives. According to a well-known cereal company’s website, a healthy low fat breakfast – something like a glass of fruit juice followed by a bowl of Bran Flakes with semi-skimmed milk and a banana – will provide:
100% of Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of vitamin C.
70% of RDA of folic acid.
53% of RDA of iron.

Cute schoolboy keeping open book on head in classroom

Most sleep research argues that children from 7 to 12 require about 10 – 11 hours of sleep per day. At these ages, with social, school, and family activities, bedtimes gradually become later and later, with most 12-years-olds going to bed at about 9 p.m. Individual bedtimes will obviously need to vary due to the time the family wakes up in the morning.

Research further suggests that bedtime routines for all school going ages should be supervised. The use of cellphones, computers, tablets, electronic games, and televisions in the bedroom should be avoided an hour or so before bedtime. The charging of mobile devices must happen outside of the bedroom space to avoid distractions, blue light and the breaking of sleep patterns due to late night notifications and messages. Instead, quiet activities conducive to lowering the level of arousal should be encouraged. Late night eating should also be avoided. Caffeinated drinks should be limited during the day, but especially late in the afternoon and evening (e.g., 3-5 hours prior to bedtime).

What sells the concept of the importance of breakfast and sufficient sleep time to me is findings that suggest that children who sleep well and eat a good breakfast tend to perform better in school, have a better attendance and are able to focus better. Children who don’t eat breakfast or get insufficient sleep tend to perform not as well, and also are most often those who display behavioural problems such as fighting, stealing, and not listening to their teachers.
Please help to ensure that your child makes the most of their school day by supporting us in this regard.