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All About Sleep:

As someone who has struggled with insomnia from an extremely early age, I have tried almost every trick in the book. From counting sheep, to repeating words over and over, for years it seemed that nothing would ever work. Although it has taken a while, I have finally found a selection of methods to make my sleep easier and more effective.

How important is sleep in children?

The following chart gives a rough guide of the recommended hours of sleep required by different age groups:

Age group Hours needed

Pre-primary school 10-12

Primary school At least 9

Teenagers 9

Adults 7-8

Restful and sufficient sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle for growing children. During the night, vital work is done throughout the body and brain to support developing function. It is important for physical health, for example by supporting the immune system to help fight infections.

Sleep also aids with focus and memory, allowing for more effective learning and retention in the classroom. For a memory to form, three processes must occur – acquisition (the learning or experience), consolidation (the memory becoming stable in the brain), and recall (having the ability to access the memory again in the future). Researchers increasingly believe that consolidation happens during sleep, allowing you to absorb and store new information.

How to get a better night’s sleep:

1. Schedule – aim to stick to a firm sleep routine by sleeping and waking at roughly the same times daily. Try to limit the difference by 1 hour at most on weekends, to allow your body to reinforce your sleep-wake cycle through consistency.

2. Environment – create the ideal environment for sleep. This is often cool, dark, and quiet. Bright lights from screens should be limited before bed and in summer, the use of a fan could be considered.

3. Activity – for me, the most effective method was using physical activity. Time spent outside and being active really helped me to get deeper sleep, reducing restlessness. However, activity too close to bedtime can have counter effects.

4. Wind down – I always find that taking 10 minutes to read a book or listen to music before going to bed can help me calm my brain down after extended periods of studying or stressful points during the year. Trying to fall asleep at once after finishing a project is almost impossible for me, so taking time to relax and clear my mind is essential.

I hope these suggestions prove useful, and if you have any of your own do write them in the comments below!

Lara Walsh

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