SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

The benefits of sleep – tips and advice for parents

04-Apr-2019

Sleep is vital for boys during the senior school years. As we all know, a lack of sleep can affect our mood, attention and performance.
 
The quantity of sleep requirement changes over our lifespan. Newborns spend from 16 to 20 hours asleep each day. Between the ages of one and four, sleep time decreases to about 11 or 12 hours. This gradual decline continues through childhood, such that an adolescent boy will need about nine hours of sleep to function at his best. 

Current research indicates that adolescents, on average, sleep about seven hours a night. Over time, this creates a sleep deficit which impacts functioning in a variety of areas. Sleeping less than an average of eight hours per night can lead to tiredness, lack of persistence in completing tasks, negative attitudes and lower school grades. Restoring sleep is strongly associated with a better physical, cognitive, and psychological wellbeing. 

The effects of ongoing sleep deprivation include mentally ‘drifting off’ in class, shortened attention span, memory impairment, poor decision making, lack of enthusiasm, moodiness and aggression. 

In some cases, lack of sleep may also lead to feelings of depression, risk-taking behaviour, slower physical reflexes/clumsiness which may result in physical injuries, reduced sporting performance, reduced academic performance and increased number of ‘sick days’ from school because of tiredness and truancy.

Tips for parents to promote sleep
What can we do to help our boys achieve more and higher quality sleep?
 
The typical teenage brain wants to go to bed late and sleep in late the following morning, which is often hard to manage. 
 
Try not to argue with your teenager about bedtime. Instead, discuss the issue with them, brainstorm and try to elicit from them ways to help them get the needed nine hours.
 
Perhaps agree on trialling some strategies for a few weeks. It will take about four weeks for a new routine to become embedded and six weeks for the benefits of good sleep to shine through; and it will be worth the effort! 

  • Physical activity during the day is great way to improve sleep. Whether it’s skateboarding, playing basketball, bike riding or running – all forms of physical activity will help improve the quality of your son’s sleep.
  • Encourage your son to get an early night every Sunday. A late night on Sunday followed by an early Monday morning will make your child drowsy for the start of the school week.
  • Keep his bedroom dark at night. The brain’s sleep-wake cycle is largely set by light received through the eyes. In the morning, expose your son to lots of light by opening the blinds/curtains to help wake up his brain.
  • Start the bedtime routine a little earlier than usual (for example, 10 minutes) and do this for one week. Add an extra 10 minutes every week until you have reached the desired bedtime. This is more likely to be successful than trying to start an hour earlier straight away. 
  • Decide together on appropriate time limits for any stimulating activity such as homework, exercise, social media use, loud music or screen time. As little as 12 minutes of screen time can be stimulating for a teenager’s brain. Try to cut these activities out for an hour before bedtime.
  • Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea, soft drinks or energy drinks for several hours before bedtime.
  • Assess your teenager's weekly schedule together and see if they are over-committed. 
Amanda Pooley
Registered Psychologist
Director of Wellbeing (K-12)

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