As we head towards the middle of the year, it is certainly a busy time for everyone- exams, CAT's and not to mention the onset of the colder weather! During these busy periods, students need to take special care of themselves so that they maintain not only their physical health but also a positive state of mind so that they can continue to achieve their best. The length and quality of sleep can impact all aspects of a persons wellbeing. Understanding why people need to sleep and the impact quality sleep has on our overall wellbeing is something we all need to understand and reflect upon.
Sleep experts (Adams et al. 2016; Huffington 2018; Walker 2017) claim sleep can impact:
• healthy weight management
• the onset of type two diabetes and cancer
• heart health and brain health
• energy levels and the immune system
• creativity and resilience
• capacity to create memories and make links to enhance learning.
Adequate sleep is measured by the length and quality of sleep a person has each night. Recent research (Adams et al. 2016) highlights that inadequate sleep is common across all age groups, with 33-45% of Australian adults having inadequate sleep. Stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, and the use of screen-based equipment before bedtime have a detrimental effect on sleep. Stress and recurring negative thoughts can also impact sleep quality. 35-40% of children and adolescents experience some form of sleep problem during their development.
Sleep problems can be:
- intrinsic (come from the inside) and include nightmares, night terrors, bed wetting and snoring
- 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.
Sleep hygiene is the routine a person engages in to ensure a replenishing night’s sleep. For parent, staff and students this may include:
During the day:
• going out into the sun in the morning
• exercising - ideally in the morning or before the evening meal
• hydrating - water and non-stimulants such as herbal teas
• managing workload and stress levels
• ensuring healthy food options.
• ensuring the bedroom is clutter and work free so the brain recognises it as a place to relax
• ensuring the bed and pillow are supportive
• trying to use a relaxing scent such as lavender.
• avoiding screens 1-2 hours before bed
• adjusting the bedroom temperature to 18°C - the body’s core temperature needs to lower to this in order to sleep
• relaxing/meditating - for example, read, listen to music, enjoy a warm bath or shower
• reducing distracting sounds using ‘white noise’ or ear plugs.
• if awake for more than 20-30 minutes try going into another room
• doing something that keeps the mind neutral
• revisiting successful parts of the sleep hygiene routine, such as a warm drink, reading quietly etc
• keeping a pad and pencil handy to write down any thoughts to review in the morning
• if disrupted sleep continues seek medical advice.
Sleep is one of the most significant influences on a person’s well-being and the capacity for him/her to be creative, responsive and productive in the work setting, and personal life.
Recommended hours of sleep required each night:
14-17 (Teenagers) 9-11 hours
18-25 (young adults) 8-10 hours
26-64 (adults) 7-9 hours
64+ (older adults) 7-8 hours
(recommendations by Australian Sleep Foundation (2011)
Mrs Judy Anderson & Mr Andrew Dixon