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Sleep deprivation at crisis point for young people in Ireland, experts warn

Monday, March 12, 2018 - 11:30

New toolkit to help young people get healthy amount of sleep launched by Minister Harris and National Youth Council of Ireland

Sleep deprivation is at crisis point for young people in Ireland and as a society we need to discuss and address the issue. That’s according to experts speaking at the launch of a new resource that promotes positive sleep habits with young people in Arklow today (12.03.18). A team of interagency professionals highlighted that sleep deprivation was a key factor affecting school attendance, school retention and concentration levels when attending school; they found that lack of sleep also contributed to low mood sometimes causing social isolation and a evidence of cannabis use to aid sleep initiation.

As a result the team developed 'The Sleep Programme' a practical tool which aims to address poor sleep habits among young people. The Sleep Programme provides teachers and youth workers with the tools to support young adults to improve or maintain their sleep routine. The programme sets out ways to prevent sleep becoming a problem. It addresses areas like stress, diet, physical activity, drug and alcohol use in young people and encourages changes to poor sleep hygiene. The resource was funded by the National Youth Council of Ireland’s (NYCI) Connected Communities programme.

Speaking at the launch Minister for Health, Simon Harris said: “I am really honoured to launch this toolkit, the Sleep Programme, in Arklow and to celebrate the work of those who have come together to develop this very important aide. We know that children and young people are faced today with busier, more pressurised lives and this in turns means that their overall health and well-being suffers. This is a really positive initiative to help young people and I am delighted my Department was in a position to support and promote its development. I want to thank everyone who has worked to develop the Sleep Programme.”

 

Fiona Creedon Youth Development Officer with Crosscare/EWYS said: “With the rise in popularity of social media and mobile technology, it is now more common for young people to be staying up later. We know that poor sleep in young people is linked to difficulties at school and maintaining healthy relationships with their families and peers. The purpose of the Sleep Programme is to support young people to improve to their sleep routine. A healthy sleep routine will help them realise their maximum potential now and in the future.”

“Given the link between good sleep hygiene and positive mental health, the goal of this programme is to inform young people about this relationship and to provide tools to either get their sleep back on track or to prevent sleep routines deteriorating in the first place,” said Dr Patrick Loughran, HSE Senior Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychologist.

The new resource aims to provide young people with the skills to improve their sleep habits; by addressing stress, diet, physical activity, drug and alcohol use and encouraging changes to poor sleep hygiene.

A participant in one of the pilot programmes, Shannon Lambert (15), says ‘I’ve learned a lot about things I can do in the evening to make sure I get a better night’s sleep, things like not using my phone for at least an hour before I go to bed and ways of managing anxious thoughts that might keep me awake.’

Ailish O’ Neill, NYCI National Youth Health Programme Manager, said: “We’re delighted to support the timely launch of ‘The Sleep Programme’ as sleep deprivation is a growing issue for so many young people. It’s high time it became part of the national conversation and this toolkit is a great first step towards framing that discussion in terms of positive sleeping habits and supporting the healthy Ireland agenda so that young people can enjoy health and wellbeing to its full capacity.”

The Sleep Programme was a joint initiative between HSE, Tusla’s School Completion Programme, Crosscare’s East Wicklow Youth Service, East Coast Regional Drugs & Alcohol Task Force, Daughters of Charity Child and Family Service Arklow Springboard, Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board, and was funded by the National Youth Council of Ireland Connected Communities Programme and Co. Wicklow Children and Young People Services Committee.

‘The Sleep Programme’ is available for download from the following websites: www.crosscare.ie, www.kwetb.ie and www.docchildandfamily.ie