We all have nights for whatever reason we just haven’t had enough sleep. We don’t feel so great, don’t look so great, and certainly don’t perform at our best. It is the same for people of all ages and has a significant impact on how children and adolescents’ function, both in the short and longer term.
- Sleep is essential for good health. We require sleep to survive, just like we need food and water.
During sleep many biological processes happen (our body rests but are brain is still working hard):
- New information is stored, and toxic waste removed
- Nerve cells communicate and re-organise, supporting healthy brain function
- Damaged cells are repaired, energy is restored and molecules like hormones and proteins are released into the body.
Why do we sleep?
There is a lot unknown about the purpose of sleep, but it is widely accepted that there isn’t one explanation for why we sleep. To date, scientists have identified the following significant reasons how sleep helps the body:
- To conserve energy
- To help restore the body
- To help the brain function, such as assisting the following.
- Problem-solving skills
- Decision making
- Emotional well-being (during sleep, brain activity increases in areas that regulate emotion)
- Weight maintenance (hunger hormones are controlled when we sleep)
- Proper insulin function
- Increased immunity
- Heart health
How much sleep do we need?
- Children aged between 6 to 12 need about 9 to 12 hours a night
- Adolescents aged between 13 to 18 need about 8 to 10 hours a night
- Adults need at least 7 hours a night
In my role as Counsellor at La Salle College, I ask every child I meet about their sleep. It is uncommon for the response to be along the lines of “I sleep really well”.
It is very common to hear, “I can’t get to sleep”, “I can’t stay asleep”, and reports of going to sleep well after midnight.
As mentioned above, if we don’t get adequate sleep we do not and can not perform at our best.
Getting better sleep
The following link provides lots of valuable information about sleep and teenagers, including tips and strategies for both parents and teens themselves to assist in getting a good night’s sleep.
And we all know how much better we feel after a great night’s sleep!
Jon Laden-Wearne | College Counsellor & Registered Psychologist