Two Things That Can Make Your Kids Smarter

By Peter Thompson; Lead Psychologist, Douglas County School District
Posted

Could getting a good night’s sleep and drinking enough water make you smarter?  

Although there are various definitions of “smart,” neuroscientists have robust evidence to demonstrate how sleep and being properly hydrated improves key cognitive functions. Conversely, lack of proper sleep and dehydration are associated with decreased thinking, and behavior problems in children.

It is beyond the scope of this brief article to detail the complex neurological processes involved in brain development, but researchers are certain that proper sleep is absolutely necessary for learning.  Brain imaging (brain scans) reveals how the brain engages in complex data analysis, memory consolidation and memory storage during slow wave sleep.  Memory is especially sensitive to neurological disruption when a person misses only one or two hours of normal sleep. 

During my weekly group sessions with children, I frequently ask, “How did you sleep last night?”  I know that students have more learning difficulties and negative behaviors if they have sleep disturbances. 

The other way to quickly increase one’s cognition is as simple as drinking more drink water.  From a neuro-anatomical perspective, the human brain is over 70% water.  Given the previous fact, when the brain is not properly hydrated, thinking is severely impacted. 

In fact, it's commonly said among neuroscientists that most people walk around slightly dehydrated and by the time people become thirsty, the dehydration process is already in full swing.   

In summary, we can no longer minimize the importance of sleep and hydration when it comes to our kids. It may sound simple and intuitive, but these facts are no less critical for your child’s development.

Sleep and hydration are not merely a luxury, but a neurological necessity.   Without a solid 8-9 (or more) hours of sleep, children simply do not build memories of what they have learned during the school day.  A child’s learning and development will certainly suffer without quality sleep and nutrition. 

Our parenting practices, just like our teaching practices, must be in alignment with current scientific research.