Sleep is now widely recognised as fundamental to the general health and wellbeing of us all. It is even more important to children and teenagers, because research has linked lack of sleep and poor sleep quality to impaired learning, obesity and depression.
Sound Sleep is an education programme that raises teenagers' awareness of the importance of sleep for their health and wellbeing, and helps them implement positive sleep habits in their routines. Developed by Sleep Scotland and launched in 2011 throughout the UK, Sound Sleep consists of a training day and teaching resource manual for secondary school professionals.
Why raise awareness?
Getting the right amount of sleep is as important as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. We place strong emphasis on teaching our youngsters about diet and exercise for the good of their health and wellbeing - why don't we do the same for sleep?
Sleep deprivation is a very real and very serious issue affecting a far greater number of high school students than we think. Look at the results of a simple survey we recently carried out with 785 teenagers across Scotland (1):
- Only 19% felt satisfied with their sleep every night.
- 34% said they had an extremely hard time falling asleep almost every night.
- 50% said they felt tired or dragged out nearly every day.
Research has linked poor sleep quality and lack of sleep to obesity, depression and impaired learning. Many teenagers are falling far short of the amount of sleep they need each night which can have a truly detrimental effect on their physical and mental health. The Mental Health Foundation has stated that "sleep deprivation is a seriously neglected health issue in our population".
But it's not only the health implications, there are strong indications that sleep deprivation affects memory consolidation and therefore your ability to retain information, a major drawback if you are a teenager at high school.
School and sleep deprivation
As well as demonstrating aspects of sleep deprivation, Sleep Scotland have found that general knowledge about sleep is lacking. When 247 high school pupils were asked to fill out a short quiz about sleep (2):
- 87% believed that lack of sleep does not affect aspects of your health.
- 90% believed that teenagers do not need more sleep than adults.
- 91% believed that you can miss out on a few hours of sleep and 'make it up' over the weekend.
Without the knowledge of what is meant by healthy sleep and the benefits of getting it, we cannot expect our adolescents to know what a good night's sleep is — let alone how to get one. The Sound Sleep programme aims to tackle this lack of knowledge, and transform it into healthy sleeping behaviour.
- Results of Sleep Wake Behaviour questionnaires gathered from 785 teenagers across Scotland (January 2013 - March 2015).
- Results of Sleep Quizzes gathered from 247 teenagers across Scotland (April 2013 - March 2014).