TEMPUR & Mental Health Foundation Provide Sleep Tips to Improve Mental Wellbeing Among Young Brits
World Mental Health Day to focus on young people this 10th October.
Celebrated annually by the World Federation for Mental Health, the focus for this year’s edition of World Mental Health Day on 10th October is on young people.
To raise awareness of mental health among young Brits for World Mental Health Day, Tempur has teamed up with charity partner, the Mental Health Foundation, providing important insights, tips and guidance that can help children, tweens and teens improve sleep habits and work towards better mental wellbeing.
“Good quality sleep is essential to maintaining good mental and physical health at all ages”, says Tobin James, Tempur UK Managing Director, “but children and adolescents need a lot of sleep. At every stage, right up to our twenties, our bodies and minds are developing and growing, and it’s periods of sleep that allow that development to happen.
“Just as with adults, the amount of sleep children and young people need varies. But what is very clear is that kids need more sleep than adults and their sleep patterns and needs change continually.
“Sleep is one of the variables we can often control to help protect our mental health and manage stress.
“Together with the Mental Health Foundation, we have compiled the following guide to help kids or teens that are struggling with sleep to form better habits in order to work towards improving or maintaining good mental health.”
How much sleep?
Generally, preschool children need eleven to thirteen hours each night. This may need to be adjusted when they stop napping during the day to ensure that they still get the hours. If you are up at 7am, that means they should be in bed around 7 to 8pm. In primary school, 10-12 hours is a good guide, whilst teenagers should be looking for 9-10 hours. Although often, teens get by on 6 hours or less…
Be aware of the effect less sleep can have. It can be a treat to stay up late but if that happens regularly – on holiday for example – you will see a dramatic effect on behaviour and concentration levels.
Improving young children’s sleep
Young children thrive on routine, especially if there is a lot going on at school or at home. An evening routine that eases your children to bed can be painful to establish, but can set a habit for a lifetime and lead to a more harmonious household for all.
Modern life does not make it easy to wind down. You need to be proactive and consistent once the family gets home:
- Try and make sure children don’t eat too much, too late. That may mean trying to ensure they eat a bigger lunch so that dinner is more of a snack if you can’t feed them until you get in from work. A substantial snack straight after school can help here, as can batch cooking, so that you can get dinner out as soon as possible after you get home rather than dishing up just before bedtime.
- If time allows, sit down as a family at dinner and reflect on the day. Ask them about something good that happened or about something they were grateful for. This helps to start bringing the day to a close. Try to avoid active or stimulating things within an hour or two of bedtime – so no screens, no complicated toys, and no sugary treats.
- A bath or shower at a specific time, a hot drink, or laying out tomorrow’s clothes can be key to building the all-important routine; an event that becomes associated with ‘switching to sleep time’.
- Just before bed, spending some quality, dedicated time together is very important. Reading together, brushing out hair, or just a quiet cuddle is a great way of connecting and reinforcing to them that they are safe and loved. Whatever you do at this stage, leave your phone in another room.
- Sometimes a familiar story, set of stories or songs can help ease children to sleep. Nightmares, night terrors, and anxieties are also very common, so avoid scary stories or heavy conversation topics at bedtime.
- Young children often wake at night. Do what you can to teach young children to find their own way back to bed and to settle themselves to sleep. This can help the whole household get a good night’s rest. Learning a mindfulness exercise together can help.
Sleep for teens and tweens
The myth of the lazy teenager comes from the fact that teens do actually need more sleep. If they have been up very early for activities and school through the week, they may need to catch up on sleep debt by not appearing until after lunch at the weekend.
Tweens and teens can respond very well to developing their own insights and routines to support good sleep. They may also need to be told, reminded or persuaded at times…
The Mental Health Foundation encourages a HEAL approach to sleep, which can work especially well for teens and tweens:
Tweens and teens are experiencing many physiological and psychological changes, in the same way they did as babies. The difference is they are now aware of those changes and dealing with all sorts of internal and external pressures as well. It’s key that tweens and teens understand and can talk about the changes they are going through. Health and body anxiety can keep young people up at night – googling symptoms or worrying. Make sure they know the door is open to chat, or make sure they have access to information in a format that suits them.
Equally, young people with health problems might find night-time difficult if symptoms cause them distress or they have bad memories of night-time emergencies. Being overweight or unfit can also lead to poor sleep quality. Similarly, bedwetting is something that worries children and disturbs sleep. If there’s any health concern with your kids, get advice from your GP or school nurse – don’t just wait for it to go away.
The bedroom environment is key to fostering a quality sleep experience.
Ideally the bedroom should be a place that is principally for sleep. That means a good bed that suits the individual, curtains or blinds that keep out the light, and a comfortable temperature – often a little cooler than the rest of the house.
It isn’t always that simple for tweens and teens however. Most of them also value their bedrooms as a place to be alone, to play, to hang out, and to make their own. These functions are also important and most of us don’t have a den or other space to give our kids.
Try encouraging your teen or tween to convert the bedroom into a ‘sleep zone’ after a certain time as part of the evening routine. For tweens this can be made into a game, adapting the den or spaceship to sleep mode, or setting out beds for favourite toys. Teens can be encouraged to change lighting, hide away homework, TV, or consoles, and clear out laundry, dirty plates and litter so that they can properly disconnect from stimuli when it’s time for sleep.
Follow a wind down routine
Routines are as important for tweens and teens as they are for younger kids. The same principles apply in terms of steps to take; bringing the day to a close, disengaging from stimulation, engaging in relaxing activities and spending quality time with parents and siblings. You may not spend much time snuggling with your 14 year old, but making yourself available unconditionally for a chat can lead to unexpected and amazing connection.
Help them learn good habits
Help your teen or tween to understand what they need in terms of sleep, and what happens if they don’t get what they need. A sleep diary or journal can help – they can write down or share some things that went well or that they were grateful for in the day as part of the wind down routine and then note when they went to bed and when they got up. If they also look at how much energy they had in the day, how focused they felt, how well they feel, and how interactions with peers have gone, the impact of sleep may become clear. If you (and they) have a good idea of how much sleep they need to feel good and what affects their sleep you can work together to establish good habits, or pinpoint issues.
Adults can participate in this too… Having a conversation about what works for you sleep wise, and how you juggle work, responsibilities and fun with sleep can be a really good way to bond.
Teens often stay up late chatting online or waiting for responses and notifications. In an ideal world, phones should charge in another room, and not be used after the bedtime routine starts. But how often do we follow that advice ourselves…?
Exercise – but not in the evening
Exercise is great for mental health, and regular light exercise is superb for improving sleep, especially where teens are concerned. However, be aware of the timing of runs, matches or gym visits. Exercise floods the body with feel-good hormones that stimulate our minds and bodies, so exercising late at night can keep us awake.
Balance is key
Reading tips, it often appears that to do the right thing, we need to make sure our children live a monastic existence; sleeping whenever they aren’t learning. As with everything, balance is key.
Gaming and social media can have mental health benefits as well as drawbacks whilst being part of organised evening activities outside of school can be hugely important for keeping fit and developing social skills and friendships. Play and unstructured time is as important for teens as for young children, even if that’s just hanging out with friends and finding out who they are.
“Teens face huge pressures”, says Chris O’Sullivan, sleep expert at the Mental Health Foundation, “and often sleep is something that is displaced. When Netflix lists sleep as its biggest competitor, we know that we need to take care to ensure there’s a balance.
“We’d never suggest forcing your kids to do or not do something, but we do urge parents to coach their young and adolescent children to make space for good sleeping habits. And on the journey perhaps look at their own habits as well!”
For more information on Tempur, visit www.tempur.com
For more information on the Mental Health Foundation and for tips, guides and resources, visit https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk
Notes to editors:
- Tempur UK Managing Director, Tobin James, is available for interview or comment
- The Mental Health Foundation’s campaign around children and education will be released on World Mental Health Day (10th October). Please go to mentalhealth.org.uk for more info and updates.
For further press information:
Elsa Findlay | Jo Kendall | Julie Aguilera
T: +44 (0)20 3440 8930
E: [email protected]
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