Sleep Healthy for School

Sleep is a vital part of your child’s overall health and wellbeing. Without proper sleep your child cannot function at their best.  Healthy sleep is as essential to your child’s health as exercise and a balanced diet. Sleep Healthy for School visits pre-schools and day care centres, aiming at the older pre-schoolers, to promote the importance of healthy sleep as an integral part of overall health. We are aiming our education at this age group as there is much research to show that children with poor sleep habits need more support transitioning to school, and can have poorer learning outcomes compared to their peers who sleep well, so we want to start them on the right foot before heading off to big school! Sleep Healthy for School would complement any school readiness activities that are already running for this age group. We focus on why the body needs sleep, repercussions of poor sleep and health sleep habits.

How much sleep does my child need?
Each child is different.  The American Academy of Sleep Medicine in 2016 released Sleep Recommendations for Children and Teens to Support Optimum Health ( ) Older toddlers generally need 10-13 hours in a 24 hour period.  By age 4 around 25% of children nap regularly, and by age 5 less than 25% of children nap regularly 1 .By school age most children have dropped their daytime naps and need 9-12 hours of sleep per day.

Why is sleep important?
We all need sleep in order to function on a daily basis. The body needs sleep to grow, to maintain immunity, repair and rest. The brain also needs sleep to process the information from the day, figure out what it needs to remember, what it can forget and recharge so that you can be attentive and learn new things tomorrow, particularly important in growing children. Sleep is also essential for maintaining our emotional balance. When your child is not getting enough sleep it is very difficult for them to function at their best.

How can I tell if my child is not getting enough sleep?
Although by no means an exhaustive list,  some of the things that may alert you to your child not getting enough sleep include -inability to control or regulate behaviour, poor concentration, forgetfulness, difficulty learning new things (problem solving, abstract concepts, difficulty at school) poor immunity, less co-ordination/more clumsy, moodiness and irritability.

What things can I do to help my child get a good night’s sleep?
We have some STRONG ideas on what parents can do to help their kids sleep.

Show – your children that their sleep is important and a priority. Remember that you are your child’s first teacher. It may be as simple as making sure that you have an appropriate amount of time to put them to bed so it’s not a rushed process. Lead by example and treat your sleep as a priority too. Teach your children how to overcome obstacles to sleep. Empower them to make healthy sleep choices.

Time – know how much sleep your children need (see guidelines and watch their behaviours). Adjust bedtime accordingly so adequate sleep can be achieved.

Routine – keep to the same routine of when to sleep and when to get up as best you can as it can promote better sleep. Things can get busy and it’s easy to let bedtimes slide.  Have a before bed routine, pyjama’s, teeth and a story for example.  A routine should be predictable and repeatable, it will give your child a warning that bedtime is approaching and they can prepare.  Allowing your child some choices during the bedtime routine gives them some control over the process, such as choosing the story or puzzle.

Off – with iPad, iPod, mobile phones, Xboxes, play stations, TV, computers an hour before bed. The light emitted from these devices can delay sleep onset. Take them out of the bedroom. Having them in the bedroom can be a temptation for children who wake at night and can’t get back to sleep to log back on and have long night wake periods.

eNvironment  – create a sleep environment that is calm and quiet. Avoid things such as caffeine, sugar filled snacks, vigorous exercise, loud TV immediately before bed. Have a sleeping space that is dimly lit (dark if your child is happy to have the lights off), cool, comfortable and free from clutter.

Get help – See your GP if you are concerned that your child has a sleeping problem, such as snoring or breathing irregularities, or if their sleeping problems are affecting their schooling and relationships. They can refer you onto the appropriate specialist if required.


Why the fuss over sleeping habits?

Here are a few of the reasons we think getting into the habit of good sleep is important in children.

The World Health Organisation in 2016 identified sleep education as an area that needed to be addressed to reduce childhood obesity. Sleep has been identified as a modifiable risk factor in childhood obesity. Associations have been shown between short sleep duration and overweight/obesity in children.2

An American study found that children with 3 technology items in their room have 45 minutes less sleep per night than those with no devices in their bedrooms. They also found children that consume caffeinated beverages daily had less sleep than their peers who do not.3

An Australian study found that children with sleep problems had more reported behavioural problems and higher rates of ADHD than those who slept well.4

Poor or fragmented sleep in children has also been associated with behavioural and cognitive difficulties, with reduced learning and achievement.5

Children with reduced sleep may need more support to transition successfully to school 6 and once at school if sleep deprivation continues are more likely to have higher levels of irritability, frustration and distraction.7

A consistent nightly bedtime routine, particularly a language based routine such as singing, reading/storytelling, is associated with better sleep outcomes in infants, toddlers and pre-school aged children, and the more often this routine occurs the better the outcomes.8,9

And the list can go on – the good news is, if we provide our children with the information to form good sleep habits, like we do with diet and exercise, we give them lifelong skills to adopt healthy sleep habits and achieve their best possible outcomes. If you think your child has a sleep problem you should discuss this with your GP.

References  1. Sleep Learning for Early Education Professionals (SLEEP) Sleep health and sleep development – children aged 3-5 years in ECE. Queensland Government Department of Education and Training. 2.Bell et al (2010) Shortened night time sleep duration in early life and subsequent childhood obesity. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.  3.Calamaro et al (2012) Wired at a young age: the effect of caffeine and technology on sleep duration and body mass index in school aged children .Journal of Pediatric Health Care  4.Hiscock et al (2007) Adverse associations of sleep problems in Australian pre-schoolers. Pediatrics  5.Curcio et al 92006) Sleep loss, learning capacity and academic performance. Sleep Medicine  6.Williams et al (2016) Early childhood profiles of sleep problems and self-regulation predict later school adjustment. British Journal of Educational Psychology   7.Gruber et al (2012) Impact of sleep extension and restriction on children’s emotional liability and impulsivity. Pediatrics. 8. Mindell J et al (2015) Bedtime routines for young children: A dose-dependent association with sleep outcomes. Sleep  9.Hale L (2012) A Longitudinal study of Pre-schoolers’ ’Language Based Bedtime Routines, Sleep Duration and Wellbeing. Journal of Family Psychology.


REMY the Koala

wants to help us sleep well!   Sleep Healthy for School‘ is an initiative by Sleep for Health and Safety.
REMY wants to share his healthy sleep habits with you and the family.  It’s about getting enough good sleep to keep you happy and healthy.

Along with good food and lots of playing games, it’s fun to wake up from a good sleep and be ready for more fun at school!


Sleep is an often forgotten important part of children’s overall wellbeing. If we can help our kids understand this, we believe their future health and happiness is on the right path.