Getting a Good Nights Sleep

Miss Caitlin Anderson – Wellbeing Health Promotion Officer

A good night’s sleep is strongly associated with improved physical, cognitive and psychological wellbeing.

Current literature indicates that 75% of adolescents are sleeping two hours less than the recommended 9-11 hours of sleep per night. We know that this can lead to increased irritability, impatience, depression and reduced immune health.

Whilst it is normal for teens to develop a sleep phase delay in their normal circadian rhythms, it’s vital that they learn to manage their sleep wake cycle.

Here are some tips to assist your teenager in getting a good night’s sleep!

  1. Caffeine – avoid all caffeinated beverages after 12pm. This includes coke, Pepsi, V, red bull, coffee and tea (black and green only).
  2. Sugar – avoid high sugar foods after school and before bed as these may increase hyperactivity and attract unwanted distractions before bed.
  3. Meal planning – aim to plan your evening meal approximately two hours prior to bed time and avoid sleeping on an empty stomach. If your child is still hungry before bed, offer a protein and carbohydrate based snack to satisfy hunger without spiking blood sugar levels. Some examples include plain Greek yoghurt or a glass of milk, multigrain toast with peanut butter or vegemite, vita wheat crackers with peanut butter, sliced cheese or avocado or a small piece of fruit. Remember that your child is still growing and developing, so energy requirements are much higher than an adult. It is important to note that inadequate energy intake can increase restlessness and wakefulness during the night, so don’t ignore a hungry tummy!
  4. Air flow – ensure that fresh air is entering and circulating the room. This may be with the help of a ceiling or standing fan, or keeping a window open slightly.
  5. Room temperature – finding a temperature that your child is comfortable with is most important, however studies show that 19 degrees celsius is ideal for improving sleep quality.
  6. Light – the body’s sleep wake cycle is regulated by a naturally occurring and light sensitive hormone, melatonin. Exposure to natural sunlight early in the day (within skin cancer guidelines) and minimising light prior to bed can assist in regulating your body’s release of melatonin. If light still creeps into the bedroom, try an eye mask to block out light.
  7. Bright screen exposure – similarly, exposure to a television, laptop, iPad or phone screen can also impact on the body’s natural melatonin release and delay the onset of sleep. Encouraging your child to read or to have at least 30 minutes prior to bed without exposure to a screen light will assist in improving sleep quality.

Our Senior School is in the process of piloting strategies to enhance the sleep quality of our boarding students. Once we have collected adequate data and have analysed the results, we will be distributing this information school wide, so keep an eye out for more information!

TSS has also partnered with Australia’s leading expert in child and adolescent sleep, Prof Michael Gradisar, from Flinders University. We aim to undertake a unique onsite study trialling three different sleep enhancing techniques across our boarding houses. We look forward to keeping you informed on this exciting project.

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