Friday March 18th is World Sleep Day and doctors say the majority of young Canadians are running on empty.

Dr. Jennifer Vriend is a child and adolescent psychologist.  She see the effects of sleep restriction in children and says most young Canadians are not getting enough sleep. “The sleep research would actually suggest this is an epidemic where we are living in a sleep-deprived nation. Here in Canada, in the states, a lot of countries, it is the same sort of thing.”

Dr. Vriend conducted a study of children between the ages of 8 and 12. She says, “Not one child in the study I did, was getting the recommended 10 hours per night.”

Vriend also says the statistics amongst teens should sound the alarm. Some 28 percent of high school students said they fell asleep in class at least once a week. In addition, 22 percent dozed off while doing homework, and 14 percent arrived late or missed school because they overslept.

Vriend says the biggest obstacle to getting a good night’s sleep is screen time. The more screens there are in a child’s room, the more likely they are to doze off at school.

“I think we don’t prioritize sleep. A huge piece is technology. The way our bodies evolved; when the sun was up, we were awake, when the sun went down, we would sleep. But now we have technology, We have computers and phones that ring all night long,” Vriend says.

Vriend says 7-8 hours of sleep is the recommended daily amount for the average Canadian.

The three elements of good quality sleep are:

a. Duration- The length of sleep should be sufficient for the sleeper to be rested and alert the following day.

b. Continuity- Sleep cycles should be seamless without interruption.

c. Depth- Sleep should be deep enough or sufficiently sound to be restorative and refreshing.

To sleep well, Dr Vriend recommends:

  1. Sticking to a nightly routine.
  2. Avoid eating too much 4 hours before bedtime.
  3. Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime.
  4. Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.
  5. Reserve the bed for sleep. Don’t use the bedroom as an office, workroom or recreation room.