The Importance of Getting a Good Night's Sleep

on October 27, 2011

by Michelle H.

We all know what it feels like when we don’t get enough sleep. In addition to feeling pretty tired the next day, you might find that you’re not able to concentrate as well, and you’re perhaps a bit more cranky or irritable than usual! While everybody has difficulty sleeping from time to time, children and youth with mental health conditions might face additional challenges to getting a good night’s sleep. This could be due to the medication they’re on or the condition they have. For instance, sleep disturbances have been reported in up to 75-90% of children and adolescents with major depressive disorder.

One of the most common questions that’s asked about sleep is: How much is enough? While it’s true that most children (aged 5-12) need between 10-11 hours of sleep, and most teens need between 9-10 hours of sleep a night, the amount of sleep needed varies from person to person. It’s actually most helpful to ask yourself some questions about how you and your child are feeling during the day – do you feel well-rested? Do you have enough energy to go about your daily activities? Are you able to concentrate and remember things? If so, then you’re probably getting enough sleep.

So, what can you do if you feel like you’re not getting enough sleep? The first step to getting a good night’s sleep is having good “sleep hygiene” (sleep habits), which includes:

  • Going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning

  • Avoiding caffeine (e.g. soda, tea, coffee, chocolate)

  • Using your bedroom only for sleep and not for studying or other activities – the sleep environment should be “boring”, as this sends a signal to your brain to prepare your body for sleep

  • Avoiding heavy exercise in the evening

  • Avoiding bright light 1-2 hours before bed – this includes the computer and other screen activities

  • Making sure your sleep location is comfortable and quiet

If you’re concerned that your child’s medication or condition is having an effect on their sleep, talk to your health care professional. For more sleep tips specific to families who have a child or youth with mental challenges, check out the Healthy Living Toolkit for Families: http://keltymentalhealth.ca/toolkits

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BC Children's Hospital

This is an agency of Provincial Health Services Authority, providing provincial tertiary mental health services to the citizens of British Columbia. Programs include: Adult Tertiary Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Women’s Reproductive Mental Health, as well as the Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program for children and youth located at the BC Children’s Hospital.

Provincial Health Services Authority

Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is one of six health authorities – the other five health authorities serve geographic regions of BC.

Ministry of Health

British Columbia Ministry of Health

RBC Children's Mental Health Project

RBC Children’s Mental Health Project is RBC's cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar; RBC Children’s Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues.

BC Children's Hospital Foundation

Through a wide range of fundraising events and opportunities, The BC Children's Hospital Foundation is united with its donors by a single, simple passion - to improve the health and the lives of the young people who enter BC Children's Hospital every day.