During a week in October last year, thoughts and lessons were shared with students on the importance of establishing a sleep routine and tips on how parents can encourage their children to invest in rest.
It goes without saying that there are a string of benefits to establishing a good sleep routine. Sleep provides both your mind and body with the power to keep moving and thinking, which are essential components for students both in and outside the classroom.
Specifically, sleep has positive effects on physical health and mental wellbeing, which are extremely important. Physical health is essential as it gives students the energy to actively engage in PE lessons and sport-based extra-curricular activities. When someone is well-rested they tend to feel happier and more optimistic. They also feel less frustration and anxiety. Sleep also enhances one’s cognitive ability, so students are able to problem solve and think more creatively, effectively enhancing their learning capabilities.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy for our students to get into the habit of falling asleep late, whether it’s because they’re doing homework, watching TV shows or scrolling through Facebook. Therefore it’s important that they are encouraged to break that cycle and find a sleeping regime that, according to the National Sleep Foundation, allows them to get eight-to-ten hours – the recommended amount of sleep needed at their age.
How does sleep work?
Our sleep patterns are regulated by two biological mechanisms:
Sleep-wake homeostatic process - this is an internal timer which records when you fall asleep, how long you slept, and produces the desire to want to go to sleep.
Circadian clock - this synchronises your biological processes with the day and night cycle, so you stay awake in the day and fall asleep at night.
Why can’t we fall asleep at night?
By exposing ourselves to artificial light before we go to bed, such as from television or our mobile phones, we dampen the secretion of melatonin in our brains, the hormone that makes us feel tired. Sources of artificial light trick our bodies into believing it’s daytime. This confuses our circadian clock and forces us to stay awake longer than we should.
How can we ensure our children get enough sleep?
The Sleep Health Foundation has four tips for a good night’s sleep that apply to students.
1. Have a regular sleep pattern
Decide on a bed time. It may seem obvious, but establishing a time to go to bed is an excellent way for students to sleep on time and create a healthy routine. It might also be useful to set an alarm as a reminder that it’s time to go to sleep.
2. Spend the right amount of time in bed
As mentioned earlier, children should be getting about eight-to-ten hours of sleep a night. Parents can encourage them to aim for this amount of time to improve their concentration levels at school.
3. A bed is for sleeping
When in bed the mind needs to be focused on sleeping and not on Facebook, a TV programme or homework. Being mentally active and around artificial light will have a negative impact on being able to sleep deeply. Ensure your children don’t have distractions next to them when they get into bed so they can get a proper night's rest.
4. Wind down and relax before going to bed
Performing a winding down ritual to relax can be very useful. This is different for each person and can include taking a shower, some light reading or a meditation exercise. Encourage your children to perform a wind down ritual before they go to bed every night so that it becomes part of their regular routine.