From the Acting Headmistress Desk: 8 March 2019

Dear parents,

Daily, we are becoming more and more aware of how sleepy and tired some girls appear. Teachers were alarmed to discover, after some discussion, how little sleep some girls are expected to thrive on during the week.

Homework, after an over-committed sporting and cultural programme, emotional upsets, iPads, television time, cellphones and hectic family schedules all contribute to the girls not getting enough sleep.

One theory suggests that if you must physically wake your child in the morning, she is not getting enough sleep!

There is some debate as to how much sleep is enough at different ages. Obviously, humans are individuals whose sleep needs are different. I am only too aware of the fact that some teachers only require five hours’ sleep per night, while others feel as though nine hours is more appropriate for them to function sufficiently.

General research suggests the following sleep requirements for children of different ages:

  • Children aged 3 to 6 years require 10 to 12 hours
  • Children aged 7 to 12 years require 10 to 11 hours
  • Children aged 12 to 18 years require 8 to 9 hours

Sleep is critical in the functioning of all body systems. It ensures the wellness of the human body both physically and mentally.

Poor sleep can cause children to be susceptible to serious illness, eating too much or eating the wrong type of food, mood swings, aggressive or impatient behaviour and low self-esteem. Without adequate sleep, our focus and attention drifts, making it harder to receive information.

Sleep-deprived neurons cannot function to coordinate information correctly and one loses the ability to access previously learned information efficiently. Insufficient sleep can affect decision making and creativity. It can result in inconsistent performance, short-term memory loss and delayed response time.

Sleep deprivation adds up over time so an hour less sleep per night is like a full night without sleep by the end of the week.

On the other hand, good sleep strengthens learning and memory. Sleep enables the brain to break up and organise learning that has occurred during the day. The brain gets rid of irrelevant information and stores useful and meaningful learning correctly so that it can be easily retrieved.

Quality of the sleep is so important. To enhance sleep, a child’s bedroom should be quiet, dark, cool, free of allergens and, clean and tidy. Sleeping in a parent’s bed is not optimal for either adult or child!

A bedtime routine is vital. This establishes good sleep habits. Bedtime stories and independent reading helps to calm a child before they are expected to sleep. Peaceful music can also help to make the transition between a busy day and sleep. As parents, we need to limit screen time before bedtime as it takes the brain at least an hour to become ready for the organisation and sorting process. LED screens delay the release of melatonin which in turn makes it difficult for the brain to function correctly.

Please re-evaluate your daughter’s sleep habits and decide if your child is getting enough sleep ahead of a busy school day where she is expected to be happy, enthusiastic, alert, inquisitive and organised.

Di Gordon

Acting Headmisstress: Juniour School