A surprisingly low-tech way to improve student outcomes

A good pillow may boost student outcomes, study finds

Sleep is a natural academic performance enhancer. Researchers have found that students who have consistent sleep schedules and avoid early morning lectures earn higher grades.

To help students sleep better, some policymakers and educators have called for delaying class times and limiting students' screen time before bed.

But there's a simple solution that may help students get more sleep and perform better in class: give them a good pillow.

That's one finding from a paper published in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. Students who had comfortable pillows reported higher sleep quality, writes study co-author Adriana Galván for The Conversation.

Galván, a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and her team of neuroscientists studied the sleep quality of 55 high school students (age 14 to 18) from different socioeconomic backgrounds for two weeks. They found that participants woke up an average of five times per night for a duration ranging from less than a minute to over an hour.

When the researchers scanned the participants' brains, they found that those who woke up fewer times during the night had developed stronger connections between the brain regions that deal with self-control, emotion, and reward processing. Conversely, students who woke up frequently during the night had weaker connections between key brain regions and acted more impulsively, writes Galván.

Letting teens sleep later could generate 83 billion for the economy

When the researchers dug into why certain participants slept better than others, they found that pillows played the largest role. Participants who had the highest sleep quality were those who reported greater satisfaction with their bedding and pillows, writes Galván. A comfortable pillow was more important for sleep quality than the technology or noise in the room, she adds.

Students who struggle to get a get a good night's sleep face trouble learning and retaining information, argues Galván. Persuading students and their families to invest in comfortable pillows may be a low-cost, low-tech intervention that boosts their performance in class, she adds (Galvin, The Conversation, 11/13).

Keep reading: Nap rooms could lead to happier students and better grades

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