Being short on sleep doesn’t just leave you feeling exhausted; it can also be hazardous for your health. Here’s why we’ve been stressing the importance of sleep with our students this year - and how you and your family can make sure you’re getting some quality Zs.
Why does this matter? Sleep plays a vital role in health and well-being. Without sleep, your body can’t recover from physical stress, encode new memories or support a robust immune system. Chronic sleeplessness can increase the risk of a host of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and stroke.
For children and teens, sleep can be especially important to their mental well-being. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “Children and teens who are sleep deficient may have problems getting along with others. They may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. They also may have problems paying attention, and they may get lower grades and feel stressed.”
If we want our bodies to be at their best, we need to make quality sleep a priority. We also need to make sure we’re getting enough full sleep cycles, which include both REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. For adolescents, getting enough sleep will not only help them feel better, but will ensure that they’re able to put forth their best effort academically.
How much sleep should I get?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Children from ages 6-13 should get 9-11 hours, while older teens need 8-10 hours. While these are general recommendations, everyone is different. It’s important to pay attention to how you feel on different amounts of sleep, and to adjust your sleep schedule accordingly.
How can I get a good night’s sleep?
Throughout the year, Dr. Greg Wells has been working with our students on how to make well-being part of their daily routine. Here are his seven keys to sleeping soundly, from his book The Ripple Effect:
Save your caffeine for the morning.
Defend your last hour.
Keep your sleep cave dark.
Sleep 7-8 hours each night.
Wake up naturally.
A key part of calming your brain down before sleep is to avoid using your smartphone or other electronic devices in the two hours before bedtime. For teens, keeping the smartphone out of their bedroom may be helpful in introducing better sleep hygiene.