Deans of Boarding
Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.
Thomas Dekker 1609
Throughout human history the need for sleep has been constant in the pursuit of good health and wellbeing. In recent times we have seen a renewed engagement in the importance of sleep, as our lifestyles continue to provide more alternatives to sleep than ever before.
It is widely acknowledged that sufficient sleep is necessary for adolescents to stay alert in class, retain information, maintain a level mood and adopt a healthy attitude towards nutrition and exercise. Developing positive sleep patterns for secondary students can be challenging. The changes in hormones and circadian rhythm during puberty as well as hectic extra-curricular schedules, academic demands and technology habits can all be barriers to optimum sleep.
According to The Sleep Connection, over 30% of primary school children and 70% of teenagers are sleep deprived. This means that they are consistently falling short of the recommended average of nine hours of sleep per day. Fuzzy-headedness, irritability and fatigue associated with sleep deprivation are the result of significant impacts on the brain. These include lost memories, language processing difficulties, impaired decision making, brain stem cell damage and emotional volatility.
For teenagers both the quantity and quality of sleep is important. Each night there should be periods of deep sleep, which is the most restful phase of sleep.
Some strategies to promote deep sleep include:
- Establishing a consistent routine which includes regular sleep and waking times.
- Avoiding the use of devices such as phones, laptops and iPads in the hour prior to bedtime.
- Maintaining the bedroom as an electronics free zone.
- Finding a relaxation technique that works. Reading, controlled breathing, meditating, and listening to quiet music can all be of assistance.
- Ensuring that where you sleep is a sanctuary is also helpful. The temperature should be right and it should be quiet and dark.
- A warm non caffeinated drink just prior to bed can also assist with relaxation.
Sleep workshops for the boarders have been facilitated by Lisa Maltman from The Sleep Connection and Lisa has worked with staff in the boarding school to review current practices. The students and staff have explored the cognitive (learning and memory), physiological (body systems), psychological (mood) and psychosocial (decision-making and relationships) signs of tiredness and the ‘sleep thieves’ that cause them.
In the Boarding School a number of strategies are built into our evening routine to assist students in getting a good night’s sleep. Boarders have staggered bed times – students in Years 7 and 8 have main lights out by 8.45pm and all lights out by 9pm on weeknights. Year 9 timings are 15 minutes later, and Year 10 and 11 have an additional 15 minutes on top of this. Year 12 have all lights out by 10.30pm. Phones and laptops are handed in each evening and stored securely away from students’ rooms.
The Boarding School has trialled sleep apps such as Headspace and some students have used a device called a Dodow. This metronome sleep light emits a blue signal on the ceiling that students focus on, with the aim of synchronising their breathing to its rhythm. This in turn relaxes the body and allows sleep to occur naturally. Staff work with individual students to develop their own personal sleep routines that can be adapted to the communal sleep context of boarding.
Mrs Suzanne Leahy and Mrs Joanne Hallinan
Deans of Boarding
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