by Jean Polichino, OTR, MS, FAOTA
Senior Director, School-Based Therapy Services, Harris County Dept. of Education


When you observe a student just “going through the motions” at school, have you ever wondered whether lack of sufficient sleep might be a contributing factor? Research seems to indicate that sleep facilitates working memory. Studies have shown a link between sleep deprivation and diminished performance of abstract and complex tasks. Sleep disorders are associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, medical disorders (e.g., asthma, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, cancer) and with emotional and behavioral difficulties, including depression, anxiety, aggression, conduct disorders and addiction. Sleep problems are often present in children with intellectual disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorders, making learning even more of a challenge.  

The BEARS Screening Assessment is a simple and efficient 5-item questionnaire for parents or children. The BEAR covers Bed time issues, Excessive daytime sleepiness, night Awakenings, Regularity and duration of sleep and Snoring (the emboldened letters make up the BEARS acronym). The interview process provides for “teachable moments” for parents and students on the importance of establishing predictable sleep routines and modifying environments so that diet, noise, light, temperature and technology use are compatible with restful sleep. Suggestions for pre-bedtime relaxation such as yoga and meditation may also be helpful. Should a sleep disorder be suspected, therapists are encouraged to refer parents to the student’s physician for further investigation.
American Occupational Therapy Association (2012). AOTA Fact Sheet: Occupational Therapy’s Role in Sleep. Bethesda, MD: American Occupational Therapy Association.
Buckhalt, J. A. (2013). Sleep and cognitive functioning in children with disabilities. Exceptional Children,
                79. 4. Arlington, VA: Council for Exceptional Children. 391-405.  
Owens, J. A., & Dalzell, v. (2005). Use of the BEARS sleep screening tool in a pediatric residents’ continuity clinic: A pilot study. Sleep Medicine, 6, 63-69. Doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2004.07.015.




Author By

Jean Polichino, OTR, MS, FAOTA


​Screening for sleep deprivation.​

Created at 9/27/2019 11:53 AM by Srivani Erukulla
Last modified at 9/27/2019 11:53 AM by Srivani Erukulla