How important is sleep for children’s learning and wellbeing?
Sleep is especially important for children and young people because it helps with mental, physical, social and emotional development. Sleep helps our brains to remember, memorise and analyse important information. All of this improves engagement and performance at school.
Children in the 6-12 age groups who get less than nine hours of sleep per night have significant differences in brain regions responsible for attention, memory, intelligence, inhibition control and well-being compared to those who get the recommended 9-11 hours of sleep per night, according to a new study at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (Ze Wang et al, 2022 and ongoing). Brain imaging at the start of the study and two years later showed differences in brain structure and function in the insufficient sleep group compared to the sufficient sleep group. The findings suggest that sleep affects learning and behaviour through specific brain changes.
Numerous other studies have similarly found significant differences between children who have sufficient sleep and those who don’t. For the latter group, impulsivity, stress, depression, anxiety and aggressive behaviour together with impaired cognitive functions such as decision-making, conflict-solving, working memory, creative thinking and learning are frequently mentioned in research findings.
‘Sufficient sleep’ is commonly seen to be 10-13 hours per night for children aged 3-5 and 9-11 hours for ages 6-12. Queensland Health (https://www.childrens.health.qld.gov.au/fact-sheet-healthy-sleep-children) is one of many sources highlighting some key habits (routines) to support children in getting the necessary sleep:
- Have a regular sleep pattern. Your child should keep regular times for going to bed and waking up. These times should be the same or similar on weekends and holidays. The 24-hour body clock that controls sleepiness and wakefulness works best if there is a regular sleep routine.
- Have a consistent pre-bedtime routine. This will help your child settle and prepare for sleep. It may include reading quietly, a warm bath or a warm milk drink. Avoid exercise or stimulating play in the hour before bedtime.
- Limit access to electronic devices (including TV, smart-phones, tablets and computer games) and bright light exposure in the one to two hours prior to bedtime. Exposure to bright light or the LED light from electronic devices can reduce the evening levels of the sleep promoting hormone, melatonin, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Electronic devices should remain out of the bedroom where possible.
- Ensure the sleeping environment is quiet, dark and comfortable. Children should sleep in their own bed. If a night light is required, a red light is preferred. If background sound is required, soothing, gentle music is preferred. The bedroom should be used for sleep only and not study or play if possible.
- Daytime exercise and natural light exposure may improve sleep at night. Children who are inactive through the day and/or are not exposed to natural sunlight, particularly early in the morning, may have difficulty falling asleep at night.
- Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant that prevents sleep. Caffeine is present in tea, coffee, chocolate, energy drinks and some soft drinks. Caffeine is best avoided in children and certainly should be avoided after midday to avoid interfering with sleep.
This same site lists a number of resources to support parents in ensuring their child(ren) are regularly following sound sleep patterns to maximise their opportunities for success at school and in all daily activities. ‘Sleep is essential for growth, immunity, learning and memory and is important for helping a child heal and recover.’
Today’s Mothers’ Day Breakfast was attended by more than 300 people. Thank you to all who were able to attend as well as to the parent volunteers, Staff and overall coordinator Justin Clarke along with the Year 2 Choir who brought the event together. Best wishes to all Mother’s for a special day this Sunday.
All families should now have received (and returned) details of the school photograph arrangements for all EL -Year 5 students on May 18 and 19. If any further information is needed please contact Junior School Reception.
Inter-House Cross Country
All Years 2-5 students will represent their House at the Cross Country carnival at Scotch Oakburn Park on Thursday 25 May from 12:15 pm to 2:45 pm. Spectators are most welcome.
National Road Safety Week May 14-21
Road Safety Week is an opportunity for us all – school as well as parents – to keep road safety issues front and centre for all students. This is road safety for pedestrians as well as bike and scooter riders, bus students and vehicle drivers. All of the above are especially important in and around the Elphin Campus during the busy daily drop-off and pickup times.
On Friday 19 May the Term 2 Walk Safely to School Day has been timed to coincide with Road Safety Week. All Junior School students are invited to join the walk to school starting at 7:30 am from Princes Square (St John St-Elizabeth St corner) and arriving at the Elphin Campus between 8:20 am to 8:30 am. Parents are most welcome to join the walk and a number of Staff will accompany the group. Younger students may opt to join in at the RACT corner or the Aquatic Centre corner along the way.
Head of Junior School