A healthy sleep schedule: just a dream?

Sleep deprivation due to an unhealthy sleep schedule is a significant issue among today’s youth and post-secondary students.


The 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card lists some of the findings from research conducted among Canadian youth.


The guidelines suggest nine to 11 hours of sleep per night for kids ages five to 13 and eight to 10 hours per night for those ages 14 to 17. They also suggest seven to nine hours of slumber for adults.


The recommendations outlined in the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth were met by approximately three-quarters of Canadian youth.


Brain health and performance

Leigh Vanderloo, an exercise scientist at ParticipACTION with a PhD in health promotion, said that brain health has been a really hot topic recently. Sleep has become part of the conversation.


“It’s often overlooked,” said Vanderloo.


She said that good quality sleep is important for overall health and development. In today’s busy and demanding society, some wear not sleeping like a badge of honour.


“Oftentimes, the first thing to go is sleep.”


She said that deprivation and inconsistency in a person’s sleep schedule can actually diminish a person’s quality of life.


“We feel like it’s okay if we’re running on very little sleep, but in reality, it actually has quite a detrimental impact on our overall health and wellbeing, and our overall quality of life,” said Vanderloo.


Sarah Borsato, Saitsa’s outreach coordinator, said she has a decent sleep schedule now that she is no longer a student.


“When I was a student, it was a nightmare,” said Borsato.


Vanderloo said chronic sleep deprivation hinders a person’s focus and executive functions, which are very important for students.


Healthy slumber is important for a student to be able to pay attention in class and make fewer errors in their work.


Borsato’s number one recommendation for having a healthy sleep schedule “is to actually schedule it.”


“Get as much as you can get,” said Borsato.


An electrical engineering student at SAIT, Luigi Alfonso, said a lack of rest can cause struggles in school, and pose serious risks in commuting because of the danger of falling asleep at the wheel.


“It’s hard to focus sometimes when I’m especially tired in class,” said Alfonso.


Borsato said she has no words for anyone who would say that sleep is not important.


“Going to class super tired is the equivalent to going to class drunk,” said Borsato.


Getting help

SAIT offers various resources to help students obtain the highest quality of life possible while in post-secondary.


SAIT’s Student Development and Counselling services are available for all students, and students have the ability to speak with professionals about their sleep schedule.


Vanderloo said that there are many things that contribute to quality slumber, but there is one recommendation she would focus on.


“Strive to move your body every day,” said Vanderloo.


She strongly encourages people to simply get moving, even if it’s not for a long period of time.


Borsato said that physical activity is very helpful when it comes to getting quality rest.


“When I’m struggling to sleep, it’s usually because I’ve been cheating myself out of gym time,” said Borsato.


Alfonso said enough shut-eye is an important part of being successful academically.


“If you’d like your grades to be higher, I would say get more sleep, so you can pay more attention.”.

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