“Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body health.” – Dr Matthew Walker
This December, XCL World Academy Counselling Team hosted an informative workshop for the parent community on the importance of sleep. This article will provide you with the main takeaways from this session and provide you with valuable tips on how to support your children and adolescents with sleep.
Getting enough sleep is important for our physical and mental well-being. Sleep lets our mind recharge and process information, and gives us the energy to complete tasks, think more clearly and concentrate better. Although many of us have a hunch that sleep may offer us a competitive edge, often it is neglected in our busy lives. Based on data collected in Singapore, the adolescent population is typically sleep-deprived, establishing inconsistent sleep routines. By investing in ‘sleep hygiene’ for your family and focusing on optimising the sleep environment and healthy habits, you have the power to foster health and well-being in your family.
Recent developments in neuroscience and brain-scan technologies have resulted in a boom in brain and sleep research and findings. These days there is a body of evidence that we can point to when contemplating the importance of sleep.
If your child is arguing that they can “get by on five hours a night”, they might need to know that research out of the University of California (Berkeley) has established the role of sleep in emotional and social success, cognition, memory and learning as well as life span longevity. Conversely, the impact of neglected sleep represents a litany of health concerns, including low energy, immune deficiencies, increased risk of disease, obesity, difficulties with emotional and behavioural management, poor judgment and decision-making skills, diminished creativity and increased impulsivity.
You will be surprised to find out that disruptions to a healthy sleep cycle, such as staying up late or rising early to study, impact cognition and learning; in one cited study by -40%! And it turns out that napping, caffeine, and ‘binge sleeping’ on the weekend are ineffective methods for recovery. For second language learners, unhealthy sleep patterns severely hamper language development due to diminished capacity in memory and processing ability.
Tips for parents on how to foster healthy sleep routines in your children
In the final section of the presentation, the Counselling team highlighted a number of research-based tips that foster healthy sleep routines. Some of the highlights were:
The value of consistent routines for sleep and wake times.
Building in a ‘wind down’ time into your evenings (where lights are dimmed, a calming routine invested in, and digital screens are turned off) also pays dividends.
Warm showers, a cool bedroom, reduced lighting, reading, listening to calm music/audiobooks, and even walking the dog, were all discussed as ways to enhance the quality and overall quantity of sleep. It is not easy to make significant changes when it comes to sleep and it is highly recommended that families make incremental changes and take their children along for the ride.
Empowering our students with knowledge about sleep was highlighted and making time to have family conversations about routines and expectations.
Modelling good sleep practices ourselves to promote healthy sleep hygiene for our children and adolescents is important. Yes, that might mean turning off the extra episode of Netflix, but the benefits of healthy sleep will be worth it.
Effective parenting adapts to the changing developmental needs of each child, fostering self-awareness, reflection and proactive problem-solving skills to help children reach their fullest potential. In doing so, parents empower their children with the necessary life skills to maximise learning and well-being. As we look towards a New Year, let’s renew our focus on our most fundamental need: sleep.