Tired Students Need Sleep Ed: Experts

Friday 13 March, 2015 contact (02) 8814 8655
Melbourne Media: Wales Street Primary School, Thornbury has all the students turning up in pyjamas, making worry dolls and learning about sleep. Journalist can film/photograph/interview students and teachers at 10am on Friday 13th March.

Students who want to boost their marks and their mood should heed this warning from health experts: Get more sleep.

Specialists in sleep science are using World Sleep Day on March 13 to provide Australian and New Zealand schools with the tools to send the message that students should have a regular bed time and try to get 9 hours uninterrupted sleep each night.

"Students who tick both of these boxes will feel brighter and happier during the day, and better equipped to deal with challenges in the classroom, on the sports field and at home," says sleep researcher Dr Sarah Biggs, coordinator of a school sleep education program co-hosted by the Sleep Health Foundation (SHF) and the Australasian Sleep Association (ASA).

"We're not saying it's a magic bullet but improving sleep will likely mean teens feel less moody and emotional and better able to concentrate and learn."

The ASA and SHF have launched a sleep education program in conjunction with World Sleep Day that aims to teach students why sleep deserves its place alongside diet and exercise as one of the pillars of good health.

The focus is crucial because research shows too many Australian children and teenagers are not getting the 11 and 9 hours they need respectively each night.

Dr Biggs says it's not uncommon for children to regularly get just 7 or 8 hours shut eye, with many going to bed at 9pm on weeknights. Not getting enough sleep is even more common in teens.

Up to 40 per cent of young people have poor sleep schedules, varying their bedtime and wake time by as much as two hours throughout the week.

Teachers see the results in the classroom, often tutoring students who are moody, disruptive and prone to emotional outbursts triggered by lack of sleep.

"At my primary school I see first-hand tired and sleepy kids, and teachers who often complain about tired children," says teacher aid and sleep health educator Sue Cranage.

"They're frazzled and unable to focus, and in many cases the parents don't seem to realise that lack of sleep is a problem which affects how their child functions during the day."

The experts say school holidays and weekends often feed into students' sleep problems.
"Many kids fail to make the transition from the late nights and sleep-ins of holiday time to school nights, leaving them with a short attention span, a quick temper and bad marks," Dr Biggs says.

"It's important teachers are able to recognise these signs of poor sleep and talk to the child about their sleep patterns. It could make the world of difference."

Parents can help too encouraging their child to follow a good sleep routine during the week and on the weekend.

"We know that a busy social schedule, homework overload, coffee and late-night TV and the internet mess with kids' sleep schedules," Dr Biggs says.

"If you notice this happening, it's time to sit down with your children, explain how vital a good sleep actually is and set a consistent routine."

The World Sleep Day program promotes the message "Sleep well, live well."
Along with an education program, students aged 11-18 are encouraged to enter the Sleep Health Foundation's short film competition with a 2 to 5-minute movie that explores some aspect of sleep.

"Sleep has an impact on every aspect of your life, and everyone has a story to tell about it," Dr Biggs says. "The competition is a chance to tell us yours."

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours each day
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  • Pre-schoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
  • School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
  • Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
  • Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours

(Guidelines published by the US-based National Sleep Foundation in February 2015)

Quirky Sleep Facts For Teens

  • You will spend about one-third of your life sleeping (that's 30 years if you live to 90)
  • If you are awake for 17 hours (for example from 6am to 11pm), your reaction times and ability to think are the same as if you were at a blood alcohol level of .05
  • Teenagers need more sleep than adults. You may not think it, but your body and brain needs about 9-10 hours a night to function properly
  • Not getting enough sleep or not getting good quality sleep can make you moody, depressed, angry, feeling physically sick, less resilient, perform badly at school and have problems interacting with your friends

The 10 Commandments for Better Sleep for kids aged 0-12 years

  • Go to bed at the same time every night, preferably before 9pm
  • Have an age-appropriate nap schedule
  • Establish a consistent bedtime routine
  • Make your child's bedroom sleep conducive – cool, dark, and quiet
  • Encourage your child to fall asleep independently
  • Avoid bright light at bedtime and during the night, and increase light exposure in the morning
  • Avoid heavy meals and vigorous exercise close to bedtime
  • Keep all electronics, including televisions, computers, and mobile phones, out of the bedroom and limit the use of electronics before bedtime
  • Avoid caffeine, including many fizzy drinks, coffee, and teas
  • Keep a regular daily schedule, including consistent mealtimes

For further information, contact on (02) 8814 8655