The Power of Sleep

18 October 2013
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Lynda Reid, Principal

I thought it might be of interest to you as parents to share with you recent research about the critical importance of good sleep patterns for children and teenagers, especially in this final term as they seek to consolidate their learning or they prepare for examinations. In Monday’s assembly I talked to the girls about the importance of sleep as follows.



Holidays are great. We all love them! We all have a chance to relax, take time, sleep in. Most of us love a chance to sleep longer and to sleep in. Sleep is a great thing for us.

Sadly, we all share one disturbing factor in common – we get less sleep than any  generation before us.  Research shows that the average adult  in the UK gets  6 ½ hours of sleep a night, much less than the average say one hundred years ago.

Why is sleep so important? Some of the answers lie in research from the University of Surrey which I read about on the BBC website.


Neurological  studies show that when we are in deep sleep our brains move memories created during that day from short  to long term storage. This frees up space in our brains for more short term storage. If we are sleep deprived short term memory is not converted into long term memory and is lost. Catching up on sleep in the weekends isn’t a solution. Memories need to be consolidated within twenty four hours of being created. In one study, students who crammed for two nights before a test did 40% worse than the control group of like ability students who got 8 hours sleep prior to the exam.


In addition, our bodies need the “down time” provided by deep sleep as this is the only time when the stress related chemical noradrenalin is switched off in the body. During this time the brain is able to reprocess the experiences of that day, especially emotional events.  It is considered to be critical for us that we have this recuperation time.


So as we begin this new term think about how much sleep you are getting. If you are younger, do you argue with mum and dad about bedtime?  If you are between 7 and 12 years old your recommended dose of sleep is ten to eleven hours.  If you are older do you pull too many late nighters? If you are twelve to eighteen years old, you should be aiming for eight to nine hours. And as for adults, well, if we get only one hour more than the average for people in the UK, seven and a half hours, our risk of inflammatory illness, diabetes and stress related conditions is lowered.


Sleep is a wonderful, restorative and healing experience. There is however, no evidence that sleeping in class has any positive health benefits at all!


Have a great term.