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Children who sleep less ‘struggle more with worries’

One in three youngsters isn’t getting enough sleep and it’s making it harder for them to cope with fears over their home or school life

Most adults will be familiar with the vicious circle of worry, sleeplessness and then more worrying.

But now, a lack of sleep in children has also been shown to go hand in hand with difficulties in coping.

To mark Children’s Mental Health Week, charity Place2Be has released research showing that more than half of kids worry “all the time” about at least one thing to do with school, home or themselves.

One in three youngsters gets less sleep than the recommended nine hours, it added.

Not sleeping for long enough means they’re less able to cope with these concerns, said Place2Be, which specialises in counselling and mental health support in schools.

“At least three children in every class have a diagnosable mental health issue, and many more worry about everyday concerns from exams to family life,” said Catherine Roche, the charity’s chief executive. “Place2Be is supporting teachers and parents with advice on how sensible sleep habits, eating well and exercise help children cope with daily worries. However, further research is needed to explore if children are lacking sleep because they worry, or worry because they aren’t getting enough sleep.”

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The survey of more than 1,100 youngsters aged from 10 to 15 showed kids who sleep less are more likely to say their worries get in the way of school work (32 per cent) than those who sleep for nine hours a night (22 per cent).

They also said they didn’t know what to do when they were worried (22 per cent of the sleep-deprived group) and that once they started worrying, they found it hard to stop (36 per cent).

“We notice that a lack of sleep can affect a child’s concentration, cognitive functions and ability to access the curriculum,” said Susan Lawrence, who is head of St Mary’s School in Brent. “As teachers we see a struggle to retain or process information, which results in increased levels of anxiety and worry that will inevitably impact on their emotional health and wellbeing.”

Children’s Mental Health Week runs until February 10.

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