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The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep

18 April 2017
Sleep is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and helping your child to get enough sleep is key to growth and development. Sleep gives our bodies time to regenerate and repair, but also an opportunity for hormone levels to recalibrate, affecting our mood, focus, appetite and cognitive development. Memory consolidation occurs during slow wave sleep, along with the secretion of growth hormones. Bad sleeping habits can have a long-term impact on your child’s development, so helping them to form good sleeping habits early can lay the foundations of  lasting cognitive and physical development. Disrupted or lost sleep is common in teens, but younger children, particularly those with very hectic and complex timetables of additional academic, sporting or musical activities, can also fall short of the sleep that they need in order to function effectively. Repeatedly losing an hour of sleep per night can be harmful because nightly sleep loss accumulates and produces a sleep debt, which can cause a decrease in function with each added night of sleep lost. Young people who do not get enough sleep may become overly active, misbehave, have problems with attention and focus or suffer a decline in performance. In more extreme cases, they may become angry or impulsive, have difficulty getting along with peers or lack motivation. How much is enough? Sleep requirements differ with age. The table below gives a rough guide to the amount of sleep that is required to enable our bodies and brains to function properly.
Age Sleep Requirement Each Night
Pre Nursery/Nursery 10-12 Hours
Pre Prep and Prep 9-11 Hours
Senior School 9 Hours
Adults 8 Hours.
Hormonal changes taking place in adolescents impact the sleep cycles of teenagers, creating a shift in the wake/sleep cycle, which causes children of Senior School age to want to stay up and then sleep slightly later. Embedding a good sleep routine is key at all ages and there are many things that parents can do to support healthy sleep routines in their children. Tips for creating a healthy sleep routine.
  • Routine - Timing: Setting and keeping to a clear routine is the key to enabling a good night’s sleep. Set a specific bedtime and wake up time and then stick to it. Work your evening routine around these timings, not the other way around. We can set our body clocks to recognise routine and in doing so, our bodies will automatically adjust to the time of day and enable us to feel tired or awake at the right time.
  • Routine Activity: Adults are only too aware of the need to take some relaxation time and the same is equally important for young people. Establish a relaxing evening routine that allows your children to mentally unwind. Listening to music or an audio book, a warm bath or drink, a relaxed chat about their day, or even some guided meditation can all help to release of the chemicals needed to enable sound and uninterrupted sleep.
  • Limit screentime: Use of devices that emit artificial light prevents the brain from moving into sleep mode. While using apps that change the colour of the screen to a warmer hue can help, the brain is still being kept alert by this kind of activity. Not using devices for at least an hour before bedtime gives the brain sufficient time to move into the right phase of the sleep/wake cycle, supporting a good night’s sleep.
  • Environment: Creating the right environment for sleep can also be beneficial. A room that is too hot, cold or noisy can affect your child’s ability to drop off into sleep, while also affecting the quality of the sleep they do manage to receive.
Finally, never forget the importance of setting a good example; we need to demonstrate the value of sleep by getting enough of it ourselves. Jo Evans Director of Wellbeing