Publish at February 28 2023 Updated February 28 2023

Learn to sleep well

An essential reminder in this age of omnipresent screens

Sleep, one of the body's essential needs to subsist, animals and humans alike spend a significant portion of each day sleeping. Some only need a few hours and others almost half a day. The importance lies not so much in the amount of rest as in its quality. And on this point, the news is not very good on the human side. Already we can be experts at keeping ourselves awake longer than necessary, we've added another ally to potential insomnia: screens.

Sleep time for teens on the decline

In October 2022, Rachid Zerrouki published the results of a sleep questionnaire asked of his students. His finding is cause for concern: they would sleep an average of 6.32 hours instead of the 8 to 12 hours recommended in this age group. Obviously, the big culprit is the phone. Most respondents admitted to spending time on their devices until sleep came. Yet, this solution, he describes, is a bit like trying to hitchhike with a chainsaw in your hands...

In effect, social networks provide everything but things to fall asleep on. The ton of information added in continuity plays with their fear of missing out; the famous FOMO (Fear of missing out). Some apps offer this all the time. TikTok is the perfect example. They can watch short videos almost endlessly, there will always be something for their tastes what's more.

On the other hand, you shouldn't blame it all on the device. Research done with Japanese students showed that it wasn't so much the possession of the phone that caused this drop in sleep among young people but rather feelings of almost addiction to the Internet and seeing the network as a way to escape one's problems and emotions. Moreover, the pandemic did not help the phenomenon, quite the contrary, since the escape could practically only be done on connected machines.

Because these uses - regardless of the motivations - have effects on the circadian cycle. These inevitably impact academic performance. A study of college students proved that every hour lost per night from the first day of a semester equates to a loss of 0.07 grade point average. What's not much to start with can quickly add up and snowball if stress increases and sleep continues to decline. In addition, insomnia is more common in learners with attention deficit disorder, which doesn't make it any easier to deal with any concentration problems they may have in their training.

Learning to sleep

Of course, the role of parents is essential in establishing a proper sleep routine. Nevertheless, not everyone can control what their children do once they get into bed. They often need to be reminded to get more rest well before they return to class. Moreover, some say parents would do better to keep a tighter schedule even on weekends and holidays. Sure, initiatives like Sleep Country in Canada can offer awareness campaigns to emphasize the importance of sleep, but is that really enough?

Schools can play a role in teaching good sleep. Indeed, already, moderate and healthy screen use in the classroom is advised in addition to addressing with learners the effects of digital technology on the body. In addition, especially in the context of biology or general life science classes, students' sleep can be addressed.

The sleep log exercise can be a good way to see how many hours they have slept and discuss the topic afterwards after a week or two of experience. This class in Switzerland, for example, took advantage of a similar activity to analyze one "normal" week and another where students were practicing the healthy habits they were taught. They then realized that they got more rest by practicing these behaviors.

Improving sleep is beneficial at any age, but it's best to learn how to do it as early as possible. And while the topic is covered in the French school curriculum, teachers lacked resources. This was true, but it has changed in recent years. The Granny Tonpyj program has been viewed and downloaded thousands of times by faculty. Through cartoons and comics, teachers can teach the principles of good sleep to children in second through fourth grade. The project was conceived by a neuropsychologist seeking to improve sleep quality in toddlers.

Many, in the case of middle schoolers, could take a cue from Emilie-Carles', which offers workshops on the topic. Students from the nursing training institute come in to answer students' questions. In addition, they create questionnaires or games to remind them of the attention that must be paid to removing stimuli, eating a balanced diet and being active, among other things. An interactive method of dealing with a topic that will follow them throughout their lives, all the way to ultimate rest.

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