Poor sleep can have very negative effects on daytime performance, psychosocial development and general wellbeing in young people. If we understand sleep, then we are better able to control it, and then perform at our best.
35 – 40% of children and adolescents experience some form of sleep problem during their development. Sleep problems are either those that:
Are intrinsic (come from the inside) and include nightmares, night terrors, bed wetting and snoring or those that
Are extrinsic (come from the outside) such as bedtime reluctance, anxiety related insomnia, inability to fall asleep alone or environmental and social problems that get in the way of sleep.
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO WE NEED?
Sleep researchers believe there is no one magic number for ‘sleep need’ and there are a lot of individual differences in what children and adolescents need to sleep to be at their best. Below is a guide of the recommended sleep times at each age point:
- Babies under 1: 14-18 hours throughout the day and night
- Toddlers: 12-14 hours per 24 hour period
- Primary school: 10-12 hours per day
- High school: 8-10 hours per day
- Adults: 7-9 hours per day
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DON’T GET ENOUGH SLEEP?
Many things can be effected when we do not sleep enough such as:
- Behaviour – aggressive. antisocial, withdrawn, hyperactive, unable to control or regulate behaviour
- Emotion – Moody, depressed, anxious, stressed, uneasy, unconfident, irritable
- Planning – poorly organised, poor time managers, repeating grades, forgets lessons
- Concentration – inattentive, lack of concentration, falling behind in school
- Creativity – not working at full potential
- Problem solving – poor behaviour control and difficulty in social situations
- Complicated thinking – struggles with maths, sciences, languages, abstract concepts
- Motor coordination – less sporty, more accidents, clumsier
- Weight – being obese and overweight is more likely with less sleep
- Health – poorer immune system – sicker more often
- Learning – it is though that sleep, particularly dream sleep or REM sleep, is necessary for storing certain types of memory, particularly more difficult memories such as mathematical concepts and language.
GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE CAN HELP PROMOTE GOOD SLEEP
WHAT IS SLEEP HYGIENE?
“Sleep hygiene” – this can be defined as habits that can help us to sleep or stop us from sleeping. If you or someone you know is having trouble sleeping you can try to change or include some of the things on this list and see if it helps.
- No TV/computer games 1 hour before bed. No TV's in bedrooms
- Monitor mobile phone use in bed
- No coke/caffeine, high sugar or high spicy food 3-4 hours before be
- Ensure relaxing and regular bed time routine – special time with children, relaxation techniques such as breathing
- No vigorous exercise 1 hour before bed – it raises the body temperature
- Finish eating 2-3 hours before bed – digestion competes with sleeping – hot milk is OK
- Make sure the bedroom is comfortable (temperature, light, noise)
- Set bedtimes and wake times – try and keep these regular
- Learn to relax – deal with worry and stress
- Use a sleep diary to check how many hours you are sleeping – Are you sleeping enough?
- Convince children that it is important to sleep well – Reward them for complying with bedtime rules