2 June 2017
Sleep, amongst other things, is an incredibly important factor in coping with a busy school day. As an educator and parent, I have noticed that the number of students who appear to be physically tired during the school day is on the increase. This appears to be a common problem across Australia, but one that as parents we often tend to downplay in a world where there are so many other stressors and anxieties. Yet, ironically perhaps, it is these stressors and anxieties that may be at the root of our girls’ tiredness which, in turn, results in further stress.
Dr Sadasivam Suresh, of the Mater paediatric respiratory and sleep medicine unit, believes that sleep is the foundation of good health. He warns that many adult health issues originate during adolescence and a number of these can be linked to poor sleep habits developed during this time. He states that parents should ‘make sleep time sacred time’. The Australian Sleep Association states that a reduction in nocturnal sleep of 1.5 hours for one night can reduce daytime alertness by up to 32%.
The National Sleep Foundation Scientific Advisory Council has recently revised the recommended sleep ranges for a number of groups. A summary of the new recommendations includes:
- Newborns (0-3 months ): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
- Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
- Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
- Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
- School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
- Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
- Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
- Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)
In a recent article by Leanne Edmistone she states that there is 'a looming global health crisis based on lack of sleep. A fast-paced, achievement-driven society, 24-hour access to information and entertainment, coupled with ingrained willingness to forsake sleep to fit more into our days, is taking its toll, particularly on adolescents. Australians are sleeping less and are more tired than ever, and our health is suffering as a result' (2013).
Lack of sleep can be linked to numerous medical conditions, including anxiety, depression and heart disease, as well as emotional and behavioural problems.
One of the reasons that adolescents are sleeping less now than ever before is, of course, due to their connection with technology 24/7. For many, there is no longer a downtime; with computers, TVs, IPads and Smartphones all residing in the bedroom. A number of teens, tweens and children sleep with their phones under their pillows or on the bedside table, with the vibrations interrupting their sleep when a friend decides to text, message or post online during the night. Parents of adolescents have told me that when they do take their daughter’s phone during the night; messages often come through between 1:00am and 4:00am in the morning! Sleep expert, Dr Sarah Blunden, discovered in a survey conducted of 12 000 adolescents, that when parents limited media usage by their adolescent children the result was better sleep, better relationships between parent and child and improved wellbeing and appreciation of life. Good news indeed, but how do we do it?
There are a number of ways that parents can help children to maintain, or even develop, good sleep habits:
- It is certainly worth the initial trauma to demand that all technology be placed in a central area, such as the kitchen bench or dining room table, prior to bedtime.
- If necessary most phones can be set for wake up alarm with the actual messaging/internet/phone functions being turned off.
- Screen time leading up to bedtime should also be limited; no screen time, including TV, for at least 30 minutes prior to lights out.
- Regular exercise, preferably in the morning.
- Bedrooms should be dark, quiet and comfortably cool.
- A set bedtime and wake up time, with a maximum of one hour’s difference on weekends (I find this one particularly hard!)
Do muscle relaxation exercises, have a warm bath, listen to soft music prior to turning in.
If you or your daughter have been struggling with sleep problems for a while and none of the obvious hints above are of any help, then it is important that you seek medical advice. It is also worth your while to visit the website: www.sleep.org.au
Wishing you all a peaceful and blessed weekend.
- Edmistane, L. (2013) Snooze Alarm. Courier Mail, QWeekend. July 2013
- www.sleep.org.au, retrieved 2 June 2017
Kate Powell has been Chaplain at The Glennie School for 22 years. During this time she has made an enormous contribution to the well-being and spiritual life of thousands of girls. It is thus with some difficulty that I announce that Kate has informed me that she will be retiring at the end of the year in order to focus on charitable work and volunteering. I Wish her all the best as transitions into the next phase of her life journey of service to others.
Kate has been the driving force behind MSY Religious Education and built a rigorous program for Year 7 to 10 students and guided senior students to explore ethical issues, various religions and the relevance of Anglican Faith in today's society.
Over the years, Kate has worked tirelessly within the school community to support local charities including Anglicare, Bush Ministry Fund and in the provision of funds to support various cancer charities, through the annual Ribbon Day fundraiser.
Her support for Glennie families, Old Girls and the community in times of need has provided ongoing comfort and support during difficult times.
I know that Kate will be sorely missed by many and we will have an opportunity later in the year to farewell her as a school community.
Mrs Kim Cohen