Why sleep is important
It’s essential for your child to get enough sleep. Your child also needs good-quality sleep.
Sleep is important for:
- maintaining a healthy body
- ‘cleaning up’ the brain
- helping the immune system
- improving energy levels, learning and concentration.
Lack of sleep can have a negative effect on behavior, emotions, attention, social relationships and school performance.
It’s thought that teenagers need an average of 9¼ hours of sleep each night to function at their best. This means they still need more sleep than an adult to be sufficiently alert during the day. And it’s not just about the quantity. It’s also about the quality, and how much deep sleep your child gets.
Adolescent sleep issues are often linked to what your child does during the day, not just at night. You can promote better sleep and address some sleep problems by looking at your child’s daytime behavior. In particular, your child needs to eat regular, healthy meals, enjoy positive social relationships, and get regular physical activity.
- Encourage your child to go to bed and get up around the same time every day. Keep wake-up times on school days and weekends to within two hours of each other. This can help get your child’s body clock into a regular rhythm.
- Be sure to allow plenty of time (for example, 40 minutes) for your child to do wind-down activities before bed. This way, he’ll be ready to catch a ‘wave’ of sleepiness when it comes. Good wind-down activities might be warm baths, warm milk drinks, writing in a journal, reading a book or magazine, or listening to quiet music.
- If your child has a busy morning routine, encourage her to use some wind-down time at night to complete morning tasks, such as getting clothes ready for the next day, making lunch or getting her school bag ready.
Good health and nutrition
- Make sure your child has a satisfying evening meal at a reasonable time. Feeling hungry or too full before bed can cause people to feel more alert or uncomfortable. This can make it harder to get to sleep.
- Encourage your child to get as much natural light as possible during the day, especially in the morning. This will help his body produce melatonin at the right times in his sleep cycle. A healthy breakfast also helps to kick-start the body clock.
- Encourage your child to avoid caffeine (in energy drinks, coffee, tea, chocolate and cola) – especially in the late afternoon and evening.
- Physical activity has been shown to increase the total sleep time of children during adolescence. It’s not a good idea to play sport or be active late at night, though. The stimulation and increase in body temperature can make it harder to get to sleep.