Good sleep is fundamental to good mental health, just as good mental health is vital to good sleep. A good night’s sleep is about getting to sleep, staying asleep and getting enough good quality, deep sleep.
Having enough good-quality sleep is a key, and often underestimated, protective factor for children.
Sleep helps to regenerate their brains and bodies, process information and memories, boost immunity, guard against obesity and stress, and help concentration, learning and behaviour.
Primary school-aged children generally need around 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night, while teenagers need around 8 to 10.
Sleep problems in childhood and are common and can take many forms, including nightmares or sleep terrors, sleepwalking and broken sleep patterns.
These problems can often be temporary if good habits are consistently encouraged, but children and young people can also get ‘stuck’ in unhelpful habits.
It is important, if sleeping does become an issue or becomes regularly disrupted, that help should be sought as soon as possible.
Please contact the School Nursing Service-visit the Single Point of Access (SPA) – for advice, especially where sleeping difficulties are more entrenched and causing distress to families and children, or refer to your GP for further advice and guidance.
Partnerships between and discussions at home and at school could prompt children to think about sleeping, what stops them sleeping, what interrupts their sleep, the role played by dreams and what helps them sleep, and help us all to reach a better understanding of underlying issues to find a solution.
Guidelines for good sleep (from Mentally Healthy Schools)
- Having a regular time to go to sleep and wake up.
- Having a predictable and consistent night time routine.
- Making sure children are in natural daylight for at least half an hour– particularly in the morning.
- Making sure children get enough exercise during the day.
- Older children should avoid napping in the day.
- Avoiding caffeine, particularly in the afternoon.
- Turning off computer screens or other devices at least an hour before bedtime. Blue light from TVs, tablets and mobiles excite the brain and interfere with the sleep hormone levels, preventing the brain from feeling sleepy.
- Having low lighting and a quiet space in bedrooms.
- Avoiding checking devices, particularly in the middle of the night.
- Supporting children to develop positive coping strategies for regulating their emotions and managing their stress levels.
The following lessons (which you could share at home together) explore the importance of bedtime routines and aim to equip pupils with actions they can take to improve their sleep habits: