A Uniting Church coeducational independent day and boarding school on Kaurna Country, Adelaide, South Australia

Early Learning to Year 12

From the Principal - Edition 4 - 2019

At 5.20am last Sunday morning, I headed to Jamestown to join the Mid North Community for a Black Dog Ride - a ride helping raise funds to prevent depression and more. As I rode up, the impact of a very dry summer was evident. A glorious late summer weekend indicated there is little relief in sight for many of the farmers in South Australia. On my way up and returning last night, I noticed the sun rising later and setting earlier. We still have a few weeks of Daylight Saving left but gaining that extra hour does not alter the shortening hours of daylight. As the seasons change, it can play around with our sleep and we all know that sleep is vitally important for our wellbeing and mental health. The latest research into this is being presented in Brisbane this coming weekend and it will reveal that prolonged bouts of poor sleep ‘Turn us into Zombies’.

Major factors affecting our sleep include stress, working hours, light exposure and other factors, including exercise and diet. For many of our youth, one of the major factors affecting their sleep is screen times - not only the impact of the light exposure, but also the implications of what they are viewing or reading and the stress it may cause.

According to research, our brains need to go offline and we use sleep to normalise connections in our brains. Research into teenagers’ need for sleep, shows that most teenagers need between 9 and 9.5 hours of sleep each night. When adolescents are sleep-deprived, they may experience changes to their mood, behaviour, cognitive ability, academic performance and for those driving, drowsiness can set in. Research has suggested that drowsy driving is most common during mid-afternoon for teens between 3.00 and 4.00 pm, which is when many students are driving home from school.

To help us all get a better night’s sleep, some hints are:

  1. Maintain a regular sleep cycle, especially on the weekends
  2. Take power naps in the afternoon if you can or need to
  3. Turn off media and all devices well before bedtime
  4. Avoid beverages or food containing caffeine, especially at night
  5. Have a darkened room and no blue light sources.

There is no doubting that as we get older we become more set in our ways, particularly if we have reinforced certain behaviours within ourselves to suit our busy lives. Of course, it is never too late to change but, for our young generations, if good habits are established, particularly around devices taken for granted, it just may help with their wellbeing and locking in those all-important hours of sleep!

Simon Shepherd