Better sleep, better health

Late bedtime on school nights impacts attendance, engagement, learning and achievement.

Many studies into the sleep patterns of children and adolescents have been undertaken.

No matter which study is looked at, there is clear evidence that those who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep have improved attention, behaviour, emotional regulation and overall mental and physical health.

Despite the evidence, the amount of sleep our young people have been getting has declined, leading to wellbeing-related conditions arising from sleep deprivation such as obesity, anxiety, aggression and depression.

Lack of sleep has been accounted for by later bed times caused by increased use of technology, less time spent outdoors, reduction in physical activity, consumption of energy drinks, part time jobs and other changes associated with busy, modern lifestyles.

However, since children and adolescents need to get up early for school, late bedtime on school nights leads to a loss of sleep impacting on their attendance, engagement, learning and achievement.

In 2020, the Australian Communications and Media Authority reported that just under half (46 per cent) of Australian children aged 6 to 13 used a mobile phone, up from 41 per cent in 2015. The upward trend in use of phones, computers and other digital devices since lockdowns does create a reason for concern.

The blue light emitted especially from handheld devices can interfere with sleep by suppressing the production of melatonin, a natural hormone released in the evening to help you feel tired and ready for sleep.

The Australian Department of Health recommends between nine and 11 hours of sleep for children aged 5 to 13 years and between 8 and 10 hours of sleep for adolescents, aged 14 to 17 years).

But how do parents support the achievement of these recommended levels, particularly when faced with the continuous increases in new and emerging technologies, the demands for access to social media and other challenges?

Establish bedtime routines

Set regular sleep and wake times

Work in partnership with the school

Avoid naps or sleeping during the day

Reduce fears

Check the sleeping environment

Relocate the clock

Eating habits

Enjoy the outdoors

Gail Major,

Executive principal,

Scoresby Secondary College