A science-backed project is underway to improve the sleep quality of school children in Guernsey.
The Guernsey Schools Sleep Project, launched by the Sleep Better Live Better (SBLB) Foundation in partnership with the States of Guernsey education psychology department, involves voluntary sleep education and the provision of night-time blue light blocking glasses among adolescents in years 10, 11, 12 and 13 across all of the island’s schools.
Aztec Group, the Medical Specialist Group and Rossborough Insurance have all provided sponsored funding to support the project. Lenses for the blue light blocking glasses were donated by Vivarays.
The project follows a smaller scale, pilot study conducted by the SBLB Foundation at the Guernsey Grammar School in 2021. The pilot study found that the use of amber lens night-time blue light blocking glasses had an overwhelmingly positive and statistically significant benefit of improving sleep quality, consistency and satisfaction, as well as reducing pre-sleep anxiety and increasing daytime alertness in students and teachers.
Sleep expert, founder and chairman of the SBLB Foundation, Daniel White, explained how his own childhood struggles with the mental and physical challenges of poor sleep led him to develop the project: “As a teenager, my addiction to computer games and technology resulted in significant overexposure to artificial light at night which hugely damaged my sleep, leading to weight gain, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. My school attendance and ability to concentrate suffered, during arguably the most important years of my school life and as a result I was unable to fulfil my academic potential at the time. These experiences have influenced my motivation to help young people to learn more about why sleep is so important, and the practical steps they can take to start sleeping and feeling better each day.”
The SBLB Foundation was launched in 2021 to research and address core issues affecting people’s sleep using interventions that have been proven to have a positive impact on both sleep quality and quantity. The Guernsey-based charity aims to provide these interventions to the community at zero or low cost, and to empower islanders with the knowledge, experience and motivation to adopt and maintain sleep health enhancing behaviours and habits.
Daniel added: “It’s clear from recent research that teenagers’ quality of sleep, mental health and ability to learn and perform well academically has never been under greater strain than it is now. Research suggests that 25-50% of children and 30-50% of adolescents sleep less than the recommended 8 to 10 hours per night. Sleep is a foundational building block for mental and physical health, so this data has grave implications for all aspects of a child’s learning, behaviour and development.”
“At the core of these issues is an unprecedented increase in technology device use and greater levels of exposure to harmful artificial blue light. This is because when our eyes are exposed to artificial blue light in the evening, the release of sleep hormone melatonin is slowed or halted. This delays our body’s ability to transition into relaxation and dysregulates the biological processes associated with rest and recovery that occur at night, leading to negative impacts on all areas of mental and physical health and performance. Children are even more susceptible to the impact of blue light due to having larger pupils and more transparent lenses than adults.”
As well as exploring the effectiveness of the blue light blocking glasses, which have been demonstrated by prior scientific studies to be a simple, cost-effective first-step intervention for improving sleep outcomes, the project also provided a number of sleep education lessons which Daniel wishes to later deliver staff and parents as part of a continued health and wellbeing intervention in time.
Daniel continued: “I am very grateful to all those who have helped to bring my vision for this project to life, including our corporate sponsors and those who have supported through the challenges of launching and running the project. I hope to demonstrate that Guernsey can be the first jurisdiction in the world that is taking steps to genuinely protect health and education of future generations by improving their sleep.”
Having been approved by Guernsey’s research ethics committee in December, the first phase of the project officially began on 16th January and was conducted over a 4-week period. Results data from the trial are currently under analysis and more information determining the effectiveness of the interventions will soon be understood and published, with the hope that benefits can be replicated in larger interventions that can benefit more islanders, and possibly further afield.
Gilliam Gamble, Head Educational Psychology for The States of Guernsey, Gillian Gamble, said: “‘The Educational Psychology Service of the States of Guernsey has been working in partnership with colleagues from other agencies and services in order to investigate the factors which are underpinning anxiety towards engaging with education, for our pupils. The School Attendance Service is examining and reviewing policy, processes and current interventions which are deployed in support of pupil attendance.”
Gordon Purvis Head of Aztec Group in Guernsey, the lead sponsor of the project said: “Supporting mental health and wellbeing is at the core of our strategy and values as a business; not just for our own people, but also within our community. Having worked with Daniel to deliver Aztec’s own sleep education sessions, we have seen first-hand how even small changes can have a significant, positive impact on wellbeing, performance and productivity. That’s why we’re so proud to support this initiative, which has the potential to improve the lives and health of so many young people in Guernsey.”