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Sleep Epidemic


By Brook Pauley
MS/SS Social Counselor


Greetings from the Social Counselor’s Office. I am excited to write about a very important topic: teens and sleep. I have been counseling at Branksome Hall Asia for about a year now, and one of the biggest concerns I have is about the amount of sleep students get. In October, we began to administer a Health and Wellbeing survey to all students in grades 6-12. One of the questions we ask the students is “How many hours of sleep did you get in the past 24 hours (including naps)?” Unfortunately, only 34% of our students reported that they slept for 7 or more hours or more. That means that 66% of our students are not getting enough sleep.

Good sleep is critical for overall health and wellbeing. Studies have shown that sleep is directly linked to academic performance, decision making, mental health, physical health, eating habits, mental toughness and overall quality of life. There is much I could write about each of these areas, but I want to focus on academic performance in particular. A study from the National Library of Medicine highlights the following academic concerns about sleep deprivation in teens:

  1. The quality and quantity of sleep has a direct correlation to students’ ability to learn and perform.
  2. Losing sleep is directly linked to poor memory recall and ability to perform tasks.
  3. Students who slept less had worse neurocognitive and academic performance than those who slept more.


Clearly the scientific evidence shows that sleep is critical for teens’ wellbeing.  So why aren’t our students sleeping enough?  There are many reasons:

  1. Academies
    Many of our students spend significant amounts of time at academies. This article written by Se-Woong Koo in the New York Times discusses the dangers of academies.  If your child is enrolled in multiple academies, perhaps it is time to reconsider her level of involvement.
  2. Comparison
    I hear from many students that they stay up late studying because they see other students doing it.  They feel pressured to keep up with others. Encourage your children to avoid the comparison trap with these steps. One of my favorite quotes is from Theodore Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” 
  3. Poor Study Habits
    I understand that many students feel the need to spend hours and hours on their studies.  Sometimes that is necessary but I believe that many of our students study ineffectively. This article from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill describes how to study smarter, not harder.
  4. Technology
    Many students tell me they use their technology until late in the night: phones, laptops, ipads, etc. This study from Harvard discusses the negative effects of blue light from electronic devices on sleep.
  5. Poor Time Management
    I understand that students need time to relax and rest, and I encourage those habits.  However, many times students do not manage their time well and end up working until late in the night. has an excellent article about helping your child learn time management skills.

I hope these tips help you continue the conversation with your child about her sleep habits. Here’s to many restful nights in the future!