Updated: 25/08/16

Why is children’s sleep important for schools (Sleep East)


Poor sleep is linked to problems with physical and mental health

Good quality sleep can benefit a young person’s ability to study well, their relationships and their behaviour

Teenage sleep is different:

  • Teenager’s need approximately 9 hours sleep per night
  • Physical changes during puberty affect sleep

The body releases a cocktail of hormones:

  • Growth hormone:
  • Increase in height
  • Increase muscle mass
  • Strenghtens bones
  • Boost immune system
  • Contributes to cell repair
  • Breaks down fat
  • Helps develop reproductive organs

Different learning processes occur during different stages of sleep:

  • Memory consolidation (REM sleep)
  • Vocabulary (stage 3 NREM sleep)
  • Pronunciation (stage 2 non NREM sleep)
  • Auditory memories (all sleep stages)

Sleep deprivation can lead to

  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Impaired learning
  • The jet lag effect

How to sleep well:

  • Duration of bedtime routine (not too short, not too long)
  • One-way street to bed
  • Separation of last feed and falling asleep (toddlers)
  • The importance of self-settling

How to sleep well – during the day:

  • Get out into natural light for at least 30 minutes a day
  • Avoid too many caffeine based drinks
  • Find ways of dealing with stress and anxiety
  • Avoid having naps during the day (older children)
  • Do not lie-in at weekends

How to sleep well – during the evening:

  • Have a good meal but not too close to going to bed
  • Clear homework out of the way
  • Do stimulating activities (exercise, watching TV, playing computer games) earlier in the evening
  • Avoid anything with nicotine in it

How to sleep well – during the last hour:

  • Switch of TV, computer phone
  • Have a bath, wind down, chill out
  • Read or listen to relaxing music
  • Try a relaxation technique to help you drift off
  • Stick as closely as you can to the same bedtime and getting up time, even at weekends

How to spot sleep deprivation

  • Difficult to wake in the morning
  • Bad-tempered, cross, feel more angry in the afternoon
  • Fall asleep spontaneously if sitting quietly
  • Sleep longer at weekends than on a school night
  • Feel down/anxious/ stressed/unable to cope
  • Feel emotional, cry for no reason
  • Difficult to concentrate or focus on lesson
  • Feel tired or lethargic during the day
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Accident prone
  • Difficulty controlling behaviour/take unnecessary risk/do silly things

Sleep deprivation can have similar symptoms to ADHD:

Younger children who are persistently sleep-deprived seem irritable and overactive, seek constant stimulation and don’t concentrate well. Such symptoms can be mistaken for mild ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

For information and training you can contact

Further info from the NHS site:

Relaxation techniques to aid sleep

Winding down is a critical stage in preparing your child for bed. There are many ways for them to relax:

  • A warm (not hot) bath will help their body to reach a temperature where it’s most likely to rest.
  • Relaxation exercises, such as light yoga stretches, will help to relax their muscles.
  • Relaxation CDs work by relaxing the listener with carefully chosen words and gentle hypnotic music and sound effects.
  • Reading a book or listening to the radio will relax their mind by distracting it from any worries or anxieties.

Here are some more relaxation tips your teenager can use to prepare them for sleep.

Avoid screens in the bedroom

The bedroom should be a relaxed environment.

Experts say that bedrooms are strongly associated with sleep, but that certain things weaken the association. These include tablet computers, mobiles/smartphones, TVs and other electronic gadgets, light or noise, and a bad mattress or uncomfortable bed.

The light from screens can also affect how easily children get to sleep. Try to keep your child’s bedroom a screen-free zone and get them to charge their phones and other devices downstairs. That way they won’t be tempted to respond to friends getting in touch late in the evening.

Read more about how keeping your teen’s bedroom free of electronic devices can boost their sleep.

Your child’s bedroom

“It’s important to create an environment that’s favourable for sleep,” says Alexander. “Keep the bedroom just for sleeping.”

The bedroom needs to be dark, quiet and tidy. It should smell fresh and be kept at a temperature of 18-24C. Jessica adds: “Fit some thick curtains. If there’s noise outside, consider investing in double glazing or, for a cheaper option, earplugs.”

Getting help with sleep problems

If you have tried these tips, but your child keeps having problems getting to sleep or sleeping through the night, you may feel you could do with more support. You can speak to your GP or health visitor about these worries. They may refer you to a child psychologist or another expert.

Keep a sleep diary

One of the first things they may ask you to do is to keep a sleep diary for your child as part of diagnosing any sleep problems.

“The sleep diary might reveal some underlying conditions that explain sleep problems, such as stress or medication,” says Alexander.

A sleep diary might reveal lifestyle habits or experiences in your child’s day-to-day activities that contribute to sleep problems.

It could include answers to the following questions:

  • What were your child’s sleeping times?
  • How long did it take them to get to sleep?
  • How many times did they wake up during the night?
  • How long did each awakening last?
  • How long did they sleep in total?
  • Did they do any exercise shortly before going to bed?
  • Did they take any naps during the day or evening?
  • Has anything made them anxious or upset?


For more information and support and advice contact JustOneNorfolk



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