NHS sleep programme ‘life changing’ for 800 Sheffield children each year

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Children with chronic sleep problems are getting several hours’ extra rest, and enjoying a boost to their mood, as a result of an innovative programme of intensive help from the NHS.

Families struggling with children’s seriously disrupted sleep have seen major improvements by deploying consistent bedtimes, banning sugary drinks in the evening and removing toys and electronics from bedrooms.

In the hour before bed, children are also not allowed to watch TV or use their phone or computer; instead they do more calming activities such as jigsaws, playdough or board games.

Health professionals in Sheffield now use this method to help 800 families in which a child sleeps for just four or five hours a night. NHS England’s mental health chief calls the initiative “life-changing”.

The sleep clinic in Sheffield continues to grow and raise awareness of sleep issues in Children. In July 2019 a family who have been treated at the clinic appeared on BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire show. You can read more about their experience here

Later school start times for teenagers

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MPs have debated about school start times after young people signed a petition.

It takes 100,000 signatures to trigger a Parliamentary debate and this one, saying early school starts make pupils "so tired", has gained 180,000.

New research shows that early starts can affect a teenager's mood, and changing when the school day begins can perk up a teen’s mood, benefit their health and enhance their ability to learn.

When a child’s biological time and school hours are closely aligned, like at the beginning of their school careers, their faculties are not affected. During puberty, shifts in a teen’s bodyclock push the optimal time for sleep later into the evening, making it difficult for most teenagers to fall asleep before 11.00pm.

You can read the transcript from the debate

Lack of sleep link to anxiety in children, study shows

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Lack of sleep is fuelling anxiety levels among schoolchildren, a survey by a mental health charity has found.

The survey of almost 1,000 pupils aged 10 and 11 and 13 and 14 found that those who get less than the recommended nine hours' sleep on a school night are more likely to worry about issues at school and home.

Almost a third of those affected by lack of sleep said they felt worries get in the way of their school work, compared with 22 per cent of those who sleep well, the survey by mental health charity Place2Be found.

Among those with lack of sleep, 22 per cent said they don't know how to cope with anxiety, compared with 18 per cent of sound sleepers.

In addition, 36 per cent of those with sleep issues said that once they start worrying they cannot stop, while the proportion among those who regularly sleep well is 28 per cent.


Rise in melatonin use

The Guardian have released a new article about melatonin prescriptions for children. Read an excerpt below.

Tens of thousands of children and young people are being given the hormone melatonin to help them sleep, prompting concern that the medicine is being handed out too readily with little evidence of its long-term effectiveness or safety.

Melatonin, which is produced naturally by the body in dark environments to help sleep preparations, has been authorised for use by people aged over 55. It has been hailed as a less addictive alternative to insomnia drug treatments.

Experts have expressed concern that the hormone may be being overprescribed by paediatricians due to the fact that there are few alternatives to support children with insomnia and other problems.

“These figures show we need more services for children who have sleep problems,” said Mandy Gurney, a health visitor and founder of the Millpond Sleep Clinic. “You can get very good results just looking down the behavioural and sleep hygiene line … The question is: do they need melatonin? But that piece of research has not been done.”

Dr Michael Farquhar, a consultant in sleep medicine at the Evelina children’s hospital, part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust, was more cautious, describing the prescription of melatonin as “not a good or bad thing”.

He said: “It can be right for the right child in the right context … I would expect to see increase in use but whether it is a valid increase in prescription is hard to say. We would need to know the reason it is being prescribed and whether there was a benefit in its use … A much bigger piece of work is needed to find that out.”

Farquhar said he was concerned that some people saw melatonin as a quick fix. “Behaviour interventions are more likely to be effective in the long-term and a better paediatric principle,” he said.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) says melatonin appears relatively safe in the short and medium term (up to 18 months). However beyond this the picture is unclear.

“What is important about the data is that it suggests a great need for sleep services within children’s health services. It is not enough to only have a bit of advice and if that doesn’t work then offer melatonin,” he said.

The figures are published as experts warn that young people’s lack of sleep is a hidden health crisis. Last month, the Guardian revealed that thousands of children and teenagers faced a mounting sleeplessness crisis, after the number of admissions to hospital of young people with sleep disorders rose sharply in six years.

You can read the full article here or find out more about behaviour based sleep tips on our sleep tips page.

Sheep Dreams Campaign

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The Children’s Sleep Charity are pleased to have secured an exciting partnership with the well-loved Aardman character ‘Shaun the Sheep’. Vicki Dawson, CEO and Founder says, “We are delighted to have Shaun on board supporting our campaign.  Sheep Dreams is a new concept and style guide for Shaun, created by Aardman, building on the natural association between Sheep and Sleep to create a wonderfully cosy and tactile world.   The income stream that this will generate will help us to support more families who are in desperate need of our help”.

Slumbersac 'Shaun the Sheep' sleeping bag collection, created in association with The Children's Sleep Charity and ©Aardman Animations. Choose from a gorgeous selection of pre-designed Shaun the Sheep sleeping bags or use our Design my Slumbersac tool to create your own personalised designs. You can also add Name Embroidery to create a truly one-of-a-kind gift, perfect for newborns, birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions!

For every Shaun the Sheep Sleeping Bag sold a donation of £1 will be given to The Children's Sleep Charity, a national, award-winning charity supporting children with sleep issues.


Children's lack of sleep is 'hidden health crisis', experts say

NHS Digital have released new information about children and teenagers who are admitted to hospital with sleep problems.

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The Guardian analysed data from NHS Digital, the national information and technology partner to the health and social care system in England, revealing that admissions with a primary diagnosis of sleep disorder among those aged 16 and under has risen from 6,520 in 2012-13 to 9,429 last year.

It comes despite the fact that admissions for all ages for sleep disorders has fallen slightly since 2012-13, moving from 29,511 to 29,184 in 2017-18.

“Sleep issues are a huge problem … it’s a hidden public health crisis,” said Rachael Taylor, a child sleep consultant at The Sleep Sanctuary. “There is a lot of sleep anxiety being diagnosed at the moment; it’s a new area that we are looking at, dealing with more children who have anxiety and it is coming out in sleep issues.”

One mother, Susan, 49, from south-east London, whose 14-year-old son experiences trouble sleeping, said she wished there was more support from the NHS. “GPs don’t always understand about sleeplessness unless you get lucky.” Susan’s son is autistic and she said it was common for children with the condition to have sleep difficulties.

Vicki Dawson at the Children’s Sleep Charity said that at the moment sleep support for parents and young people was “a postcode lottery”. She noted that in Doncaster the Clinical Commissioning Group commissioned a full sleep service from the charity and recently nearby Bassetlaw duplicated the service after seeing the huge impact it has had in the area.

“In other areas families are left in crisis unable to access support; we have medical practitioners signposting families to the charity and simply cannot meet demand as we receive no funding,” she said.

You can read the full article on The Guardian website.

Find out more about Teen Sleep and ideas to help your Teen sleep better on our Teen Sleep page



Researchers find children lose an hour of sleep in noisy hospital wards

Researchers find children lose an hour of sleep in noisy hospital wards

Researchers in Southampton have found most children and their parents lose more than an hour’s sleep during hospital admissions, with noise levels a major cause of disruption.