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Back-to-school series: School stress keeping you up? Tips to get the ZZZ’s you need

When you're in school, life can get busy. Exams, homework assignments, organized sports and commitments to friends and family can add up. And sometimes, counting sheep doesn't do the trick.
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While exercise, socializing and keeping up with school are a part of students' day-to-day, busy bodies and minds can interrupt much needed sleep to recharge. The right amount of sleep is different for everyone, but it's especially important for growing minds and bodies; in fact, your brain can continue to develop into your mid-20s! So, it's important to be mindful of how much you're sleeping and exploring different ways to help you get the right amount of shut-eye.

While it depends on the individual, here is the recommendation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on the amount of sleep needed by age:

sleep reco.pngSource: Recommended Amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations: A Consensus Statement (American Academy of Sleep Medicine)

According to the 2013 BC Adolescent Health Survey, 82 per cent of youth in BC spent time online or on their phones when they were supposed to be asleep. Screen time before bed or in the bedroom can affect the body's production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Too much light from screens at bedtime can give your body the impression you aren't ready for sleep. If children and youth are not sleeping enough, they can lose focus and concentration, become less motivated, become moody and be more susceptible to illness.

Experts recommend that children and youth have no screen time two hours before their regular bedtime. The Canadian Paediatric Society's new position statement recommends families follow the four Ms when it comes to screen time and young children:

  • Minimize screen time
    • Screen time for children under 2 is not recommended. For two- to five-year-old children, limit routine screen time to less than one hour a day. Maintain daily screen-free time, especially at meals and at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Mitigate the risks associated with screen time
    • Be present and engaged when screens are used and, whenever possible, co-view with children. Be aware of digital content, prioritizing educational, age-appropriate, interactive content.
  • Be mindful about the use of screen time
    • Conduct a self-assessment of screen habits and develop a family media plan for when, where and how screens may (and may not) be used and be reassured there is no evidence to support introducing technology at a young age.
  • Model healthy screen time
    • Adults should turn off their devices at home during family time, turn off screens when not in use and avoid background TV.

Tips to get a good night's sleep:

  • Keep a routine – wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day. 
  • Avoid caffeine and eating close to bedtime –  try to minimize caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evenings. Read these healthy eating tips
  • Get sweaty – keep active during the day for a more restful sleep. Read easy tips to fit physical activity into your busy schedule.
  • Unplug -  avoid your TV, phone and computer before bed. Get tips on creating a relaxing environment in your bedroom. 
  • Take a breather – try practicing mindfulness before bed to ease any stress or anxiety. Try the Breathr mindfulness app

If you're looking for more sleep information and tips for youth and young adults, you can visit If you're looking for tips to help younger children, try the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre

Please follow BC Children's Hospital on Twitter for helpful back-to-school tips, resources and more!

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