Mental Health Week: Sleep & Wellness

By Ms. Tracey Lee and Mr. Dave Chevreau, Senior School Counsellors
As the days get longer and the summer months draw closer, it would seem as if we should be more stress-free and relaxed. However, this period can paradoxically usher in feelings of high stress and anxiety, with AP exams, year-end finals and graduation activities on the horizon. It is also a time when sleep patterns can become more erratic. Yet, as the National Sleep Foundation suggests, sleep is “food for the brain.” During sleep, cell repair and important cognitive functions occur, such as memory consolidation. Skimping on shut-eye can be detrimental to your physical and mental health—lack of sleep can make you moody, unfocused, and too tired to perform well in school or other activities. 
Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function optimally. According to our recent student survey, only 26% of students in grades 6–12 sleep more than 8 hours on weeknights, with 13% sleeping fewer than 6 hours. The survey also noted that those students who sleep more than 8 hours report feeling significantly more capable at handling the day-to-day academic workload, report feeling minimal stress/anxiety most days, and report that they enjoy their days at school more than those who sleep 6–8 hours or less.
To get the most out of your days at WPGA, we encourage students to prioritize sleep, and to implement the following sleep-supportive practices:

  • Go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day (even on weekends!), aiming for at least 8 hours a night. A regular sleep schedule will help you fall asleep more easily and feel more rested during the day. Likewise, having a consistent wind-down routine (showering before bed, reading a book) tells the brain that it’s time to sleep. 
  • Avoid high-fat, sugary foods in the evening (which can cause a blood sugar crash and disrupted sleep during the night). Avoid coffee and caffeinated foods/beverages after 12pm, and avoid vigorous exercise within 3-4 hours of bedtime, as it can be very energizing and delay sleep onset. 
  • Avoid blue light at night (the artificial light emitted from screens and devices). Download the free program flux on your computers and turn on Night Shift on your phone, and aim to turn off devices at least 30 minutes before bed. Blue light blocks the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. Try reading before bed or listening to music instead of scrolling Instagram! 
For more information on healthy lifestyle habits and mental wellness, check out the Senior Schools’ Wellness Council website.