From the Principal
REDUCING THE IMPACT OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION
Reduced sleep has been associated with a range of physical and psychosocial disturbances in both children and adolescents. Symptoms include impaired attention, memory, creativity, learning and academic performance, motor skill deficits, greater incidence of depression and anxiety, increased impulsivity, aggression and hyperactivity and increased potential for alcohol and drug abuse in adulthood. As an educational leader, I never cease to be amazed upon investigating student under-performance in one area or another that poor sleep health is such a common denominator.
Too little sleep can also disrupt the body’s immune system, appetite regulation and endocrine systems, with shorter sleep duration being associated with increased risk of sickness, metabolic dysfunction and even diabetes. It is important to recognise that adolescents are at high risk for these consequences. In fact, after shift workers, they are one of the most sleep deprived groups in our community because there are specific sleep problems that are associated with adolescents.
Pubertal specific physiological changes to the sleep-wake system delay the release of natural sleep promoting hormone melatonin, with a subsequent delay in the onset of sleepiness. This results in adolescents going to sleep later. Later bedtimes are exaggerated by academic workload, peer and social activities, sport, part-time work and the evening use of technology in the bedroom. Given that they must still get up for school, the result is a reduction of total sleep time. As a consequence, adolescents who should be getting nine hours sleep per night, are typically getting between seven and eight hours, and so accrue a ‘sleep debt’. This debt has significant and consequential effects on the development and wellbeing of adolescents at a time when they are expected to perform at their best.
The negative effects of sleep debt on academic functioning and general well-being in adolescents have been extensively researched by Dr Mary Carskadon at the Brown University, in the USA, and have been reiterated in many other countries, including Australia. The effects of poor sleep on adolescents cannot be underestimated. Here at St Andrews, we are regularly reminding students about the critical value of sleep on all areas of life and performance. We know, as parents, that it is a conversation you would also be having at home. Together, we must persist.
Peace and Grace