Keeping late nights

Saturday, 29 June 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

While holidaying in Sydney recently, I was quite intrigued when one day our granddaughter – a Year 11 student in a girls’ high school – came home with a letter from the school. In addition to the principal, the letter had been signed by the deputy principal and head teacher – student wellbeing.  The letter was addressed to parents and caregivers informing them of a seminar that will allow the students in Years 11 & 12 “to explore the benefits and importance of sleep”. The letter referred to the concern of the staff in recent years at the apparent tiredness of many students. “This can result in poor general health and be indicative of mental health issues such as anxiety and mood swings. Excessive tiredness can also impact the effectiveness of teaching and learning, in particular concentration in class and memory and information recall,” the letter said. The seminar was to be conducted by the founder of an organisation named ‘Sleep for Health,’ Dr Carmel Harrington – a sleep scientist and a leading Australian researcher in the field. The session was compulsory for the Year 11 & 12 students, which according to the letter “will not only provide academic benefits but more importantly equip them with knowledge and understanding about the importance of sleep for life”. The students were also given a ‘sleep journal’ to be completed on the night of the day before the seminar. “It is essential that this is completed honestly and brought to the seminar,” the letter said. The sleep journal titled ‘My Sleep’ had some interesting data to be filled. Each student had to mention the time she went to bed and got up in the morning. Other questions included how many minutes it took to fall asleep and how many times she woke up during the night. If the sleep was disturbed, reasons as to why had to be mentioned. What she did one hour before going to bed had also to be stated. The final question about the sleep was to indicate how she felt when she woke for the day – refreshed, somewhat refreshed, tired or very tired. The last part of the sleep journal referred to the feelings since arriving at school in the morning. A box had to be ticked against the following : *I have been Energetic; A bit energetic; Tired; Very tired; Exhausted *I have been able to Think very clearly; Think not too badly; Think ok; I find thinking difficult *I have feltReally great; Happy; Ok; A bit down; Not happy at all The granddaughter did not find anything exciting at the seminar. The sleep scientist had touched on a few home truths explaining why they should get a good night’s sleep. Being curious to find out whether she had anything interesting to tell the adults (she had written a book too), I did a Google search and found 10 tips she had given. Here they are: 1.Make sleep a priority. 2.Establish a regular sleep routine. 3.Make your bedroom dark to encourage sleep. 4.Develop a relaxed attitude towards sleep. 5.Let natural light into your bedroom as soon as you wake in the morning. 6.Turn off the TV (and computers, iPads, tablets, mobile phones and other devices). 7.Avoid exercise within three hours of going to bed. 8.Stay clear of stimulants and alcohol in the late afternoon/ evening and avoid going to bed straight after a heavy meal. 9.Consider evidence-based natural medicines rather than sleeping pills to help restore normal sleeping patterns. 10.Consider downloading sleep cycle and white noise apps to improve sleep quality. Take it or leave it!