The biggest barrier to effective engagement with young people...tiredness

As many professionals know there are many barriers to working with children and young people. This list includes, but is not limited to, home life, family, friends, schooling, environment, mental health, drugs and alcohol, peer relationships, social deprivation and more.

I have been fortunate enough over the years to have worked with talented and dedicated staff who have accomplished great things with the children and young people they support. Many of the issues mentioned previously can, in varying degrees, be resolved or at least managed.

Despite all the great work being undertaken by schools, parents, professionals and young people there seems to be one obstacle that can be the biggest barrier of all… tiredness.

I am working with young people on a daily and weekly basis who are regularly not going to bed until the small hours - if at all in some cases. Whether they are using electronics such as mobile phones or play stations, lying in bed tossing and turning or just getting really poor-quality sleep, its having a massive impact.

I’m sure many of us can attest to the impact a poor night sleep can have. It can negatively affect decision making skills, memory, concentration, mood, can increase the risk of accident or injury, can cause or heighten irritability and has an impact on wellbeing in general. With that in mind, the best professional with the best interventions are struggling to make noticeable progress with these children and young people whose cognitive ability may be impaired due to their lack of sleep.

Perhaps I’m blinkered or biased due to my background and speciality in drugs and alcohol but I am being told over and again about how some young people are relying on alcohol and/or cannabis to help them sleep at night and highly caffeinated drinks to get them going again in the morning. This isn’t a sustainable or healthy way to live and highlights the important of sleep and my message here.

I am raising this as an issue with the schools and services I support.

I have attached the NHS guidance on sleep which is an interesting read.