‘There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep’ – Homer
As parents and educators, we strive continuously to help our children be prepared to achieve the very best that they can.
As the Head of an International School in the Algarve, and over my numerous years of teaching, one of the most important things that we should and must do for our children is to ensure that they have a good night’s sleep. It is one of the key factors for our children to be best equipped to deal with their demanding days at school.
Especially important, after the long summer holidays, is to re-establish their correct sleep patterns. Tired children find it impossible to concentrate, become quickly aggravated and their general behaviour is affected. This impacts their ability to learn and can lead to children not liking school, arguments, and subsequent out-of-the-norm behaviour.
Good, consistent, established sleep patterns equate to children of all ages who achieve and, very importantly, enjoy their days at school learning, playing and interacting with their peers.
For school-aged children, this means that they require between 9-11 hours of sleep a night. Not having the right amount of sleep has far reaching effects on children. A lack of sleep reduces their cognitive abilities; memory is affected, attention spans are reduced, creativity is impacted and, in general, affects their ability to learn. In some cases, a lack of consistent sleep may lead to aggressive behaviour and the consequences associated with this.
Therefore, for us as parents, who want to do all that we can to help our children, it is very important to establish and keep to defined and consistent sleeping patterns.
Firstly, consider yourself, your child or children – are you all getting enough sleep?
There are a range of factors that might affect achieving this, including:
- Irregular sleep patterns – no regular bedtime.
- No importance placed on regular and consistent sleep.
- Electronic devices being used in bed which stimulate the brain and hinder sleep.
Of course, we all know that as children enter their teenage years, establishing sleep patterns becomes harder. However, this is when sleep becomes even more important due to inevitable exams and levels of learning that they are exposed to daily.
So, as parents, what can we do?
- Review our own and our children’s sleep patterns – if we model good sleep patterns, our children will reflect these.
- Talk together about the importance of a good night’s sleep – discuss what we behave like when we are tired!
- Establish strict bedtimes and routines – research shows that clearly defined bedtimes result in good sleep patterns.
- Create a regular bedtime routine – this can include reading a story or, for older children, having 30 minutes’ reading time.
- Ensure that their sleeping environment is comfortable and conducive to a good night’s sleep – check mattresses and pillows regularly, draw curtains or invest in black-out curtains if necessary, and ensure that their bedroom is neither too hot nor too cold.
- Ideally, do not allow electronic devices in the bedroom.
- Talk about the benefits of a good night’s sleep and about how, as a family, you all have more energy, less squabbles and wake up refreshed!
If we establish good regular sleep patterns, we know as parents that we are doing all that we can to ensure that our children are ready for the day ahead, be it school from Monday to Friday or an activity-packed weekend.
As role models, we will also feel recharged and refreshed having modelled good sleep patterns ourselves. We will be able to confidently start the day knowing that both we and our children are ready for the challenges of the day ahead.
Let them sleep, for when they wake, they will shake the world – Napoleon Bonaparte
By Penelope Best, Head of School,
Eupheus International School, Loulé