Getting enough sleep

The right amount of good-quality sleep is essential for your health and wellbeing. Your body needs sleep to grow and develop properly, and studies have shown that the right amount of sleep also improves memory and concentration.

Growth and sleep are intertwined (growth hormones are released while you sleep) and hormonal changes affect your sleep patterns and the amount of sleep you need. Sleep also helps your brain to process emotions and all that it has learned during the day.

Sleep is so important that a lack of it will have damaging effects. Weight gain, poor performance and concentration, reduced creative ability, lower immunity to diseases, even depression, have all been linked to not getting enough sleep.

The two main types of sleep are ‘slow wave’ (non dreaming) and ‘REM’ (rapid eye movement/dreaming sleep). Both are essential as they help to repair any wear and tear, and promote healthy hormone activity, normal growth and emotional wellbeing. It is vital for good brain health and emotional development. According to the Milpond Sleep Clinic, you need the following amount of sleep at different ages:

  • 11 years – 9.5 hours/night
  • 12 years – 9.25 hours/night
  • 13 years – 9.25 hours/night
  • 14 years – 9 hours/night
  • 15 years – 8.75 hours/night
  • 16 years – 8.5 hours/night

As you get older, you’ll find out what works best for you and how much sleep you ideally need. Try to get into good habits at bedtime to help you fall asleep easily and to sleep soundly.

Tips for sleeping soundly

  • Make your bedroom a calm, restful space. This can be tricky if you share a bedroom but keep your bed and the space around it as neat and ordered as possible.
  • Keep the temperature at about 18 degrees C (65 degrees F) for a good night’s sleep.
  • Have a bedtime routine – stick to the same bedtime every day (as far as possible) and create a few nighttime rituals (maybe listen to soothing music, have a relaxing bath or shower, read a book). This will help you to wind down at bedtime.
  • Keep your room a screen-free zone. Scientists agree that looking at screens before you try to go to sleep is a bad idea. The blue light emitted from screens fools our brains into thinking it’s daytime which makes it harder to fall asleep. The right amount of good quality sleep is essential, especially when you are going through puberty, so leave your phone downstairs.
  • Make sure your room is dark – blackout blinds or curtains will help block out light from outside.
  • Don’t drink caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, fizzy drinks) after about 6pm. Caffeine is a stimulant and can keep you too alert to fall asleep easily.
  • Don’t eat or drink too close to your bedtime but don’t go to bed hungry. You don’t want to wake up needing the toilet or lie in bed with a grumbling tummy.
  • While it is important to get plenty of exercise during the day, don’t do any just before bedtime or you will have too much adrenalin whizzing around your body and feel wide awake.
  • Try writing down any worries you have before you go to bed so you can sort them out, or talk to someone. Perhaps write a ‘to do’ list and prepare your clothes and school books for the next day so you feel organised. Going to bed feeling calm and in control will help you fall asleep.

NB If you often wake up during the night, have difficulty sleeping or you have very disturbed sleep, make an appointment to see your GP to find out if there is an underlying medical cause.

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Switching off