Why teach about sleep?

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Sleep deprivation is a seriously neglected health issue in our population.

Sleep is now widely recognised as fundamental to the general health and wellbeing of everyone. But it’s especially important for children and teenagers – research has linked lack of sleep and poor sleep-quality to impaired learning, obesity, depression and many other mental health conditions.

The second biggest cause of death for 15-19 years olds is suicide (1), so it is vital that we do everything we can to support young people’s mental health.

Sleep Scotland offers schools an invaluable tool for confronting Scotland’s child and adolescent mental health crisis.

Sound Sleep is an education programme that raises awareness in schools of the importance of sleep for health and wellbeing, and helps pupils implement positive sleep habits in their routines. Developed by Sleep Scotland, Sound Sleep Primary (launched 2018) and Sound Sleep Secondary (launched 2011) consists of a training day and teaching resource pack for professionals working in either Primary or Secondary schools.

Read more about Sound Sleep, and look at some sample resources.

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 both primary and secondary school students than we think. Look at the results of a simple survey we carried out with 785 teenagers across Scotland (2):

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felt satisfied with their sleep every night.

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said they had an extremely hard time falling asleep almost every night.

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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 hugely 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”.

Did you know that:

  • Four-year-olds with sleep difficulties have an increased risk of developing mental health problems as early as six.
  • Childhood insomnia has also been linked to problems with aggression and anxiety later in adolescence
  • Young people sleeping less than 8 hours a night are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide.
  • The risk of self-harming has been found to be 4 times higher among 16-19 year olds with insomnia.

As well as these health implications, there are strong indications that sleep deprivation affects memory consolidation and, as a result, the ability to retain information – a major drawback for any child or teenager at school.

A primary school which took part in our Sound Sleep programme as part of the pilot, reported a difference in their pupil’s ability to concentrate, ability to cope, and a huge fall in absenteeism. One student’s attendance rose from 53% to 94%. (3)

School and sleep deprivation

As well as demonstrating the effects of sleep deprivation, Sleep Scotland has found that general knowledge about sleep is lacking. When 247 high school pupils were asked to fill out a short quiz about sleep (4):

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believed that lack of sleep does not affect aspects of your health.

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believed that teenagers do not need more sleep than adults.

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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 children and adolescents to know what a good night’s sleep is — let alone how to get one. The Sound Sleep education programme aims to tackle this lack of knowledge, and transform it into healthy sleeping behaviour.

Find out about upcoming Sound Sleep training dates
You can also commission a Sound Sleep course for your colleagues or organisation
Research references:
  1. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention: Adolescent Health
  2. Results of Sleep Wake Behaviour questionnaires gathered from 785 teenagers across Scotland (January 2013 – March 2015).
  3. Article from The Times, “‘Sleep-deprived pupils get lessons on bedtime routines” (September 2018)
  4. Results of Sleep Quizzes gathered from 247 teenagers across Scotland (April 2013 – March 2014)

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