Sleep is a crucial and often underappreciated part of a student’s lives, from primary school through to senior secondary.
Aside from the obvious perk of feeling refreshed and alert in the morning as opposed to tired and lethargic, there are a stack of advantages associated with a good nights’ sleep that can promote academic performance and defend against problems common in the everyday lives of students.
It helps memory retention
When you break it down, so much of school (tests, assessments, exams, rules) comes down to remembering the right information. Considering memory and learning is consolidated during REM sleep, the phase in the cycle following deep sleep, it is ideal for children and adolescents to get plenty of shut-eye.
Sleeping is an investment in long-term health
Failure to attain the appropriate amount of sleep can have ramifications for young people’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. These can include increased blood pressure, low self-esteem, poor eating habits, mood swings and aggressive behaviour, along with susceptibility to illness.
Getting the right amount
There is no one size fits all model, but the Australian Centre for Education in Sleep has guidelines around how much sleep young people should be getting based on their age range:
- Primary school: 10–12 hours per day
- High school: 8–10 hours per day
- Adults: 7–9 hours per day
Getting into a good routine
The benefits of sleep are well-established, but what if it’s easier said than done? These tips may help:
- Avoid blue-light activities (tablets, phone, TV) an hour before bed.
- Avoid caffeine, high-sugar and high spicy food 3–4 hours before bed, and finish eating all together 2–3 hours before bed.
- Create a relaxing and regular bedtime routine with your children — this can involve relaxation techniques such as breathing or reading together. Avoid vigorous exercise an hour before bed.
- Make sure the bedroom is comfortable in terms of temperature, light and noise.
- Set bedtimes and wake-up times and try and keep these regular, even on weekends.