Sleep is vital for physical, emotional and mental wellbeing yet often its importance is not recognised. I founded The Children's Sleep Charity because I believe it is vital to educate youngsters about sleep so that they can meet their full potential, and our charitable aim is that all children are supported to get a good night's sleep. We know from experience that sleep deprivation leads many of the families that we work with into crisis. When we are sleep deprived it is incredibly difficult to function, and research has shown that sleep deprivation can be linked to depression, weight issues and even childhood growth patterns. It is time to address the issue and educate children about sleep.
I am currently leading a project in secondary schools across Yorkshire and the Humber to work directly with youngsters in order to identify ways that the importance of sleep message can be effectively shared. I am a former teacher and understand that often teens are unaware that there are simple changes that they can make to their lifestyle, in order to promote a better night's sleep. The most obvious being around limiting screen activities in the hour leading to bedtime. Educating children is key in improving attitudes towards sleep.
I am delighted that we are beginning to be approached by some corporate organisations who are keen to implement sleep support into their health and safety procedures, and family friendly policies. This good to see and is 'first step' in the right direction but more can be done - after all it is not just children who are unable to achieve their very best, or to remain safe when sleep deprived. To acknowledge the importance and impact of sleep within the workplace can only reap benefits on all levels for the employer and employee, however I would like to continue to advocate for a better understanding of sleep until this becomes standard practice within all work environments.
The Children's Sleep Charity have recently carried out a pilot project funded by NHS England to support children with autism who have sleep issues. The work includes using a behavioural approach to sleep issues, working in partnership with parents to develop a programme that will help to support children to get a better night's sleep. Children with autism are often more at risk of developing sleep issues. The project explores the reasons why the child may have sleep issues and supports parents to learn about sleep so that they can identify appropriate strategies that fit in with their parenting style.
Many parents who contact the charity are at absolute crisis point, and there is very little in the way of sleep support. It really is time that sleep is taken more seriously, we have met families who have had to give up work, lost their homes and their relationships have broken down - all because they are utterly exhausted. It is important to remember that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture for a very good reason!
The charity trains practitioners to support families in their localities and the vision is that every family will be able to access free sleep support across the country within the next 10
years. Please join us on our mission to highlight the importance of sleep, to find out more about training with us, or to support our work please visit www.thechildrenssleepcharity.org.uk