EnQuire now
The Importance of a Good Night Sleep for Children and Adolescents

Posted by admin 4:54 am, 11 June 2016

It is well established that sleep is important for an individual’s physiological, cognitive and psychological (emotional and behavioural) functioning. That is, inadequate sleep has been found consistently to increase emotional and behavioural problems including depression, anxiety and behavioural disorders in children and adults. It has also been found to significantly trigger neurocognitive performance deficits for students including language acquisition, working memory and processing speed. Sleep deprivation also impacts on other executive functions including the ability to plan, organise and focus attention.
Interestingly, studies have found that as little as 1 hour reduction in sleep can impact on cognitive and emotional functioning substantiating the need for children and adolescents to prioritise sleep hygiene in their lives as students to best manage their academic and emotional progress.

The National Sleep Foundation recommend that children aged 5-10 years have 10-11 hours of sleep per night and that children and adolescents 10-17 years have 8.5-9.25 hours a night of sleep.

Factors impacting on a good night’s sleep include (but are not limited to):
• General enjoyment in activities and desire to stay up late
• Technology/Social Media
• Homework and Study
• General difficulty falling asleep
• Nightmares
• Sleep terrors
• Sleep Apnea

General Recommendations for Improved Sleep Hygiene Include
1. Regulate your sleep cycle: one of the best ways to improve your sleep is to go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
2. Get up and try again: If you can’t get to sleep after 20-30min of trying, get out of bed and do something calming or boring for 10-15 min and then try again. If you get up, don’t do anything too stimulating.
3. Mindful Breathing and Body Scan: Mindfulness strategies such as mindful breathing and body scanning can assist with getting to sleep. If you don’t know what mindfulness is- ask your therapist to explain it to you and take you through a mindfulness exercise to demonstrate.
4. Avoid caffeine and sugar close to bedtime: having caffeine less than 4 hours before bed time will make it more difficult to fall asleep. Don’t have sugar less than 2 hours before sleep time.
5. Use your bed just for sleeping: Set your bed up so that it is associated with sleep only. If you do other stimulating activities on your bed during the day and early evening, your body will not learn the connection between bed and sleep
6. Don’t nap: Avoid naps during the day otherwise your body won’t be tired enough for a full night of sleep. If you need a nap keep it under an hour and don’t sleep later than 3pm.
7. Set up sleep rituals: develop your own rituals that remind your body it is time for sleep. Examples might include 10 minutes of breathing exercises or reading a non-stimulating book.
8. Have a bath: having a bath 1-2 hours before bed can help your body to feel sleepy as your body temperature drops
9. Don’t watch the clock: watching the clock can either wake you up with the lights or reinforce negative thoughts such as “it is so late, I will never get to sleep. This is terrible”.
10. Monitor your sleep: collating some facts about your sleep can help you to work out what factors might be contributing to your sleep difficulties. Keeping sleep diaries can then also be given to health professionals if you need medical help with sleeping.
11. No exercise less than 3-4 hours before sleep: while exercise is great, try not to do it less than 3 hours before bed time as it releases endorphins that will keep you refreshed and energetic.
12. Eat well and don’t go to bed hungry: healthy eating can assist sleep and ensuring that you don’t go to bed on an empty stomach will also help you to fall asleep and keep sleeping. Having a very full stomach can also affect sleep negatively.
13. Comfortable bed and bedroom: Having a comfortable bed will help you to sleep. Also having a bedroom where the temperature is comfortable will help you with sleep.