School children to be offered sleep lessons

Picture Editor | Sukey Richardson

The use of social media and digital devices before bed has possibly lead to the rising concerns over the lack of sleep in children in what is being described as a ‘hidden public health crisis’.

By Wendy O’Shaughnessy | Ws_BreatheNews
Subedited by Jasmine Wing | @jasminew_BN

School children across Britain may be offered sleep lessons to tackle the growing “sleep crisis” in the UK.

According to the PSHE Association, this new curriculum aims to help students between the ages of 7 to 16 to ‘recognise what good quality sleep is and why it is important’ and to ‘identify habits and routines that promote good quality sleep.’

It recommends that children aged between 5 to 10 need between 10 to 11 hours of sleep and children 10 to 17 require 8 to 10 hours of sleep. However, there are rising concerns over the lack of sleep in children in what is being described as a “hidden public health crisis” by Rachael Taylor, the founder of the Sleep Sanctuary.

The use of social media and digital devices before bed is one of the main causes attributed to the rise of the “sleep crisis” among children.The artificial blue light that is emitted by digital devices interrupts the natural body clock as it prevents the chemical melatonin ,responsible for regulating sleep, from working effectively. The NHS reported that a study found “children who used media devices before bed were more than twice as likely to have an inadequate amount of sleep, and almost three times as likely to be excessively sleepy during the daytime.” Therefore it is recommended that leaving at least 30 minutes before bed tech-free is vital for getting a good night’s sleep.

Also, significantly impacting children’s sleep is the rise of childhood obesity and mental health problems. It is estimated that 1 in 3 children leave primary school either overweight or obese and mental health problems affects about 1 in 10 children. Regular exercise is suggested as one solution to improving children’s mental and emotional wellbeing in addition to helping regulate sleep. The PSHE association has collaborated with the RSPH and the Health Foundation in building resources to support schools to raise awareness of steps young people can take to support their physical and emotional health in addition to offering sleep lessons.

PSHE Association Subject Specialist Jenny Fox says: “These lessons equip children and young people with the knowledge, skills and strategies they need to take increasing responsibility for the quality of their sleep. Pupils are encouraged to explore the myths related to getting good sleep, offer advice to others about improving evening routines and understand the many benefits of improving the quality of their sleep.”

Dr. Charlie Tyack, Department of Children’s Sleep Medicine at Evelina London, says: “These PSHE lessons reinforce the importance of sleep and help young people to think realistically about how to give themselves the best chances of getting the sleep they need to reach their full potential.”

Sleep deprivation in children affects their ability to listen, learn, concentrate and solve problems, therefore, having significant implications for children’s academic performance in school. The PSHE curriculum aims to educate children on these issues with the intention to address this “crisis” in the UK.

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