Sleepiest students in the world: Heavy media use and sleep deprivation

Meilan Zhang, University of Texas at El Paso


The 2011 results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) propelled some scholars to call for new educational reforms to improve U.S. students’ score rankings. However, few seem to have noticed that U.S. students indeed ranked first on one measure: Sleepiness. U.S. students were reported to have the highest percentage of sleepiness in classrooms among all participating countries in TIMSS and PIRLS. Surprisingly, the prevalent sleep deprivation in U.S. students has largely been overlooked by educational researchers and policy makers. Drawing upon relevant literature, I argue that heavy media use may be one of the main reasons for sleepiness and, in turn, poor academic performance. Therefore, perhaps the top priority for improving U.S. students’ academic performance is not new educational reforms, but awareness of and interventions to counter the detrimental impact of heavy media use on sleep. After all, schools, however reformed, if occupied by sleepy students, are not likely to be effective.