Healthy Sleep
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The POWER of Sleep
November 2022

Getting a good night’s sleep may be one of the first things to fall off your radar given the competing demands of a busy family life. But sleeping well is a game changer for children and youth. It supports their mental and physical health, and allows young minds and bodies to develop and function properly.
 Adolescents are entering a period in which they are striving for autonomy and want to make their own decisions, including when to go to sleep. But studies suggest adolescents do better in terms of mood and fatigue levels if parents set the bedtime — and choose a time that is realistic for the child‘s needs. 

Understanding Sleep
Sleep accounts for 1/4 to 1/3 of the human lifespan. But what exactly happens when you sleep? 

Throughout your time asleep, your brain will cycle repeatedly through two different types of sleep: REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep.
The first part of the cycle is non-REM sleep, which is composed of four stages.

The first stage comes between being awake and falling asleep.
The second is light sleep, when heart rate and breathing regulate and body temperature drops.
The third and fourth stages are REM and deep sleep. During REM sleep brain waves are similar to those during wakefulness. Breath rate increases and the body becomes temporarily paralyzed as we dream.
Though REM sleep was previously believed to be the most important sleep phase for learning and memory, newer data suggests that non-REM sleep is more important for these tasks, as well as being the more restful and restorative phase of sleep.
There are two main processes that regulate sleep: circadian rhythms and sleep drive.

Circadian rhythms are controlled by a biological clock located in the brain. One key function of this clock is responding to light cues, ramping up production of the hormone melatonin at night, then switching it off when it senses light.
Sleep drive also plays a key role. Your body craves sleep, much like it hungers for food. Throughout the day, your desire for sleep builds, and when it reaches a certain point, you need to sleep. A major difference between sleep and hunger is that your body can‘t force you to eat when you‘re hungry, but when you‘re tired, it can force you to sleep, even if you‘re in a meeting or behind the wheel of a car. When you‘re exhausted, your body is even able to engage in microsleep episodes of one or two seconds while your eyes are open. 
Hormones also play an important role in signaling and regulating sleep. Melatonin, promotes sleep and is naturally produced as light exposure decreases. Other important sleep-related hormones include adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine. Sleep can also affect the production of vital hormones, such as growth hormone as well as leptin and ghrelin that regulate appetite.

Shortage of Sleep
Shortage of sleep, can have far-reaching effects on adolescent health and well-being.
Many studies show students who sleep less suffer academically, as chronic sleep loss impairs the ability to remember, concentrate and solve problems. Researchers believe that when we sleep the brain goes through the process of consolidating important information and filtering out the unimportant. When the brain is deprived of that opportunity, the capacity to learn is diminished.
Sleep is believed to help regulate emotions, and its lack is an underlying component of many mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression. For youth who are prone to these disorders, better sleep can help serve as a preventive factor. 

Sleep deprivation also has been shown to lower inhibitions. In the teen brain, the frontal lobe, which helps control impulsivity, isn‘t fully developed, so teens are naturally prone to impulsive behavior. When you add inadequate sleep into the mix, it can lead to poor decision making.
Supporting Healthy Sleep Habits
For tweens and teens (12- 18 years ) eight to ten hours of sleep per night is recommended.
In adolescence, the biological clock process is not fixed yet, which results in a shifted sleep schedule towards the evening. This is called the adolescence phase-delay. Their circadian rhythm shifts to a later time, making it more difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. It explains why adolescents prefer going to bed late and waking up late, which is a not to be confused with laziness or lack of self-control.
As much as possible, regular sleep schedules should be adjusted, to the teens’ biological needs (phase-delay) to avoid sleep deprivation and its consequences on mood, brain function, school performance and health. 
Most teens follow a pattern of sleeping less during the week and sleeping in on the weekends to compensate. But many accumulate such a backlog of sleep debt that they don‘t sufficiently recover on the weekend and still wake up fatigued when Monday comes around.
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is key to functioning optimally. Try to keep week and weekend sleep bedtimes and wake-up times as similar as possible, with a maximum 2 hour time difference, to avoid more phase delays. 
The challenge of sleep-phase delay is worsened when teens are exposed late at night to lit screens, which send a message via the retina to the portion of the brain that controls the body‘s circadian clock. The message: It‘s not nighttime yet. It helps to turn off devices at least one hour before bedtime and keep screens out of the bedroom at night. 
Avoid caffeine in energy drinks, chocolate and cola in the late afternoon and evening.
Encourage physical activity, favouring outdoor activities. Natural light during the day suppresses melatonin. This helps us feel awake and alert during the day and sleepy towards bedtime.

Sleep Data
The Greater Victoria School District 2021 Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) is a survey completed by students in grade 6. It is designed to assess children's wellbeing inside and outside of school. 
MDI Data: 42% of students report that they get a good night sleep 4 or less nights per week. 
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MDI Data: 32% of Students report going to bed after 10pm
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Data from the 2013-14 Canadian Health Behaviour in School-aged Children, reveals that 47% of boys and 44% of girls in grade 6 report they are tired when going to school in the morning. 

 According to studies the strongest correlation with happiness is sleep! Teenagers need about 8-10 hours of sleep each night. Teens who say they get more than seven hours of sleep on most nights report being happier. This makes sense as sleep deprivation is a major risk factor for both physical and mental health issues.
November School Poster
This poster helps youth understand that getting a proper amount of sleep each night plays a huge part in ensuring a high quality of life. It's hard to enjoy favorite activities or  learn your best at school when you're sleep deprived. There's no denying that we feel better when we get the right amount of sleep each night!

Parents You Are There!

There’s no amount of kale chips, coding apps, home baked cookies, no device expensive enough, no birthday party perfect enough, to replace you. Even on your worst day.

Ninety per cent of parenting is being there for your children, and you are all there. So, good for you. You’re doing a great job!

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