Sleep and your health

Did you know that the average human spends around 26 years of their life asleep? Read on to find out just how important sleeping well is for your health and learn some top tips to help you get a good night’s sleep.

We all experience the odd night when we don’t sleep very well but sleeping well most of the time is a really important part of living a healthy lifestyle.

There may be times in our lives when we don’t sleep well for prolonged periods of time and this can impact upon our health; sometimes in ways you might not expect.

According to NHS Digital, the number of children and young people living in Manchester who were admitted to hospital due to sleep issues rose by 10% to 373 hospital admissions from 2015-16 and more people than ever have reported not sleeping well as a result of the current Coronavirus pandemic.

The good news is that if you find yourself struggling to sleep, there are some simple things you can do to help yourself get 8-10 hours of good quality sleep a night, as recommended for young people between the ages of 11 to 16 years.


Why do we need sleep?

Sleep supports good health in several important ways:

  • Increases productivity of both the brain and the body meaning you get more done
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Improves concentration, learning and memory
  • Helps you to feel more positive and maintain good relationships with friends and family
  • Improves mood and boosts your mental wellbeing
  • Helps you rest, recover and grow
  • Helps you maintain a healthy weight

What is the impact of not sleeping well?

Regularly not sleeping well can affect your life and your health in several ways:

  • Affect your mood making you feel irritable, grumpy, impatient and even sad
  • Make it more difficult for you to think clearly, learn, make decisions and solve problems
  • Affect your coordination, making you more clumsy
  • Affect your appetite, making you feel hungrier and often craving less healthy foods and drinks
  • Over time, increases your risk of developing diseases such as obesity and heart disease

What can you do to help you sleep well?

Luckily, there are some simple steps that you can take to help you establish good sleeping habits and get all the beauty sleep you need! Begin by thinking about your environment. Is your bedroom dark, quiet and not too hot? Is it fairly tidy? Research has shown that going to sleep in a tidy bedroom can help to quieten a busy mind and help you fall asleep more easily.

  • Establish a routine and stick to it. This helps your body to learn when it’s time to start to relax and prepare to fall asleep and when it’s time to wake up. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Many teenagers naturally want to stay up late and get up late. Whilst a lie in at the weekend is tempting, this can confuse your internal biological clock making it harder for you to fall asleep the next night, and even harder to get up for school on time!
  • Make sure you get plenty of exercise during the day and don’t do anything too physically demanding close to bedtime. Try doing something relaxing just before you want to fall asleep, like reading a book or listening to music. Eating a light, healthy supper can help too such as a banana and a glass of milk. Avoid anything that contains a lot of fat or sugar and stay away from caffeinated drinks; caffeine interferes with your body clock, making it harder for you to fall asleep.
  • Worrying is one of the main reasons teenagers give for not being able to sleep well. Common teenage worries include homework, exams, social events and relationships. If you are worried about something then it can help to talk to someone about it. Sharing worries with someone you trust such as a parent/carer, friend, teacher or school nurse can help you to put things into perspective and feel less anxious, meaning you are more likely to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Finally, stay off gadgets and electronic devices like mobile phones in the hour before you want to fall asleep. These devices emit a blue light which has been proven to interrupt your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone which is responsible for your sleep. Ideally, remove mobile phones and other devices from your bedroom, that way you won’t be tempted by them!

Help, I’ve tried all this and nothing is working!

If you have tried all of the above suggestions, regularly for a few weeks but you are still having difficulty sleeping, then it’s important to speak to a medical professional such as your school nurse or your doctor who will be able to advise you further.

For further advice and guidance you can visit the NHS Sleep Tips for Teenagers webpage here and the Sleep Council website here