The importance of sleep in boarding
By Helen Keevil, Pastoral Head and DSL at Abingdon School

Teenagers are well known for needing a lot of sleep but, despite all appearances, there is good reason for it!

Research has shown that teens have biologically different sleep patterns and, because they are in a time of very fast physical, intellectual and emotional growth, generally need 9¼ hours of sleep a night (this compares to the 7 or 8 hours required by a typical adult).

Worryingly, a lack of sleep can cause increased anxiety, depression and stress; poor memory, concentration, judgement and immunity; slower reactions increasing the likelihood of accidental injuries – none of which is conducive to performing well academically or being far from home. That’s why sleep is particularly important for our boarding community.

At Abingdon, our newly renovated boarding accommodation has bedrooms which sleep between 2 and 3 students (single rooms for our sixth formers) and have been designed to maximise individual personal space. The low occupancy per room, deliberately arranged to maximise privacy and lessen distraction, helps to ensure both study and sleep can more easily be achieved. There is also plenty of opportunity for personalisation of the space, so that boarders can create a cosy and homely environment, helping them to relax.

We also know that there is a strong link between exercise and sleeping well. With an enviable extracurricular offering of over 150 activities to choose from (including 31 sports) plus an enhanced boarders programme, there is plenty of opportunity for boarders to proactively engage in physical exercise – and, of course, they also have use of our onsite sports facilities (including tennis courts, squash courts, gym, pool and climbing wall) at evenings and over weekends.

The use of electronic devices, which is often attributed to inhibiting sleep, is controlled – the use of all electronic equipment is prohibited after lights out and, for 3rd and 4th Year, devices have to be handed in before bedtime during the week.

Feelings of anxiety can be especially prevalent for those far away from loved ones and home. Abingdon’s House system – an extended family for the duration of a student’s time at school – can help to lessen these worries. Not only do boarders find there are plenty of friendly staff to speak to (House Manager, Head of House, Tutor, health centre and counselling teams) but our sixth form prefects and a ‘confidence box’ into which anonymous concerns can be dropped all offer plenty of opportunity for worries to be shared. Other initiatives led by members of our academic team provide regular opportunities to check boarders are ok. For example, our Head of EAL will make her students a cup of tea during their sessions because, whilst her back is turned and there isn’t any eye contact, students will quite often open up about what is happening in their week.

Whether day student or boarder, the importance of sleep is a frequent topic in our PSHCE curriculum and forms part of the students’ self-reflection questionnaire which Tutors discuss with their tutees at the end of each term.

So whilst biologically, getting enough sleep is always going to be a challenge for our young people, the boarding lifestyle, facilities available and environment at Abingdon goes quite a long way in helping them achieve it.

Back to all Blogs

More Blogs