From A’s to ZZZ’s – The importance of sleep on mental health and performance
Getting back into routine after summer holidays can sometimes be difficult. Some children find it hard to fall asleep for reasons that vary. The anticipation of the start of a school year might bring on feelings of excitement and joy or feelings of anxiety or loss.
Sleep is a very important in human growth and development and for students overall health and wellbeing. Adequate amounts of sleep have beneficial effects on our health, emotions, memory, and academic performance. Insufficient sleep, however, can negatively affect our well-being, decision-making, and attention, all of which are necessary for successful learning. Elementary school and early high school years are a critical time for affecting and establishing healthy habits in children. Because of sleep’s impact on the health and performance of students, it is important to practice good bedtime habits in our homes, communities, and especially in our schools during this time.
Studies show that one in four Canadians are sleep-deprived and 60–70% of Canadian students are often very sleepy during their morning classes. School-aged children are experiencing delayed bedtimes and nearly half of Canadian teens reported problems falling or staying asleep.
Reducing sleep may disrupt the ability of students to concentrate for long periods of time, and retain information learn in class. Research shows that children with reduced sleep are more likely to struggle with creativity, problem solving, controlling their emotions of behaviour, and generally score lower on IQ tests.
Up to 24% of teenage students have reported that their grades dropped because of sleepiness. In addition, studies have shown that students who had grades of C, D, or E averaged 25 to 30 minutes less sleep per weeknight than their classmates who achieved A’s or B’s. Set yourself, students or children up for success this year. Get back into routine by making sure you are getting in all your z’s!
Try some of these tips to get back into a healthy sleep routine:
- Avoid electronics for at least one hour before bed. Try reading instead.
- Avoid naps. Sometimes shutting your eyes for a “quick” 20 minutes can disrupt your sleep patterns.
- Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends. Go to bed and wake up at the same time.
- Exercise! Regular physical activity can help your body to sleep more soundly. Try to avoid exercising too close to your regular bed time. This can sometimes make it difficult to fall asleep.
- Pay attention to the foods you eat and drink. Sometimes certain food or beverages like coffee or foods high in sugar can stimulate your body, which make it hard to fall and stay asleep.
Amanda Niskala is a Health Promotion Coordinator with Alberta Health Services