All in a good night’s rest

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Having personally experienced the benefits of a break away and a few longer sleep-ins, articles about the importance of sleep for teenagers strike a real chord.

At an International Boys’ Schools Coalition (IBSC) conference, Dr Greg Wells stressed the importance of resting one’s body, quoting that 40 percent of teenagers are sleep deprived. Sound, lengthy sleep is needed for the brain to clear its daily accumulation of cellular waste products. Teenagers, it is estimated, need all five stages of sleep for average periods of seven and a half to nine hours daily.

Interestingly, it is believed that learning happens at night when you are asleep. This is when your encoding processes occur. Looking at device screens at night alters pineal gland activity and Melatonin secretions, resetting timing mechanisms to daytime. Research has shown young people who consistently got seven to nine hours sleep performed better academically and had enhanced mental and physical wellbeing.

Teenagers often don’t get enough sleep for a number of reasons. These include, shift in sleep pattern – after puberty there is a biological shift in an adolescent’s internal clock of about two hours; early high school start times – secondary schools start probably an hour earlier than the students would have experienced at primary school; social and school obligations – homework, assignments, after school and evening activities (often involving phones and computers) and socialisation (including social media) that lead to later bedtimes.

As a result, many teenagers are sleep deprived. It is recommended that if your sons or daughters are to avoid the impact of sleep deprivation i.e. mood swings, high levels of negative risk-taking, lower cognitive ability and lower academic performance they should, try and maintain a regular sleep schedule; avoid over-sleeping on the weekends; turn off television, computers and music at least an hour before bedtime; and read before bedtime.

As Thomas Dekker once said: “Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together”. So maybe we should all take the time to review and reflect on our own and that of our son or daughter’s sleep pattern, in order to maintain a healthier balance in our lives.

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Grant Lander