Across the globe, COVID-19 has been attributed to increasing screen time for children and decreasing their sleep quality. Here in Burnaby, we have several initiatives underway to help students and their families learn how to support good sleep habits, which has become especially important during the pandemic.
Children in Kindergarten to Grade 3 at four schools are exploring the relationship between screens and other decisions we make as individuals that can impact our sleep. The Quest for Rest is underway at Aubrey, Marlborough, Montecito, and Stoney Creek elementary schools. They are the first in the District to engage in the program, which is designed to create discussion and activities both at school and at home – all with a view to establishing important strategies for healthy sleep habits.
Amy Chin is a Kindergarten/Grade 1 teacher implementing Quest for Rest at Montecito Elementary:
I’m really hopeful that with this program we can have great conversations, as opposed to shaming and pointing fingers about what we should and shouldn’t do as families and parents, because everyone is overworked, and a lot of people are turning to devices.”
The Quest for Rest: Polly and Pickles book, which is part of the ZZZPower Sleep Program, is at the centre of the learning. The book follows the adventures of Polly, her eccentric hedgehog Pickles, and the decisions they make day-to-day in and around their sleep, their screen time, and how that affects their health and well-being. The story is accompanied by a sleep literacy program and curriculum. The focus is on teaching about the importance of sleep as a pillar of mental health, as well as providing opportunities for families to have conversations about it.
Anicia Louie is the mother of students Linden and Kiara, who are part of the Kindergarten and Grade 1 classes exploring the program at Montecito:
For us as a family we have been reading this book two or three times a week. They always want to hear about Pickles and Polly. I think as a parent everything is valid and helpful – especially for the ones who never want to go to sleep. It helps with routine. It helps them be calm. It’s been really good for the kids and they look forward to reading it.”
Burnaby was the first of five school districts to partner with ZZZPower, which was co-created locally by a doctor, mom, and teacher: clinical child psychiatrist Dr. Smita Naidoo, mother and wellness advocate Andrea Bell and teacher Karen Leung.
Nick Christofides leads the Safe and Caring Schools team at the District, which is implementing mental health awareness efforts for students and staff:
The lesson plans with Quest for Rest line up with the BC Curriculum. And with screen time up due to the pandemic, navigating this is new territory for parents. It’s very difficult. Families along with schools can help drive well-being. Starting the mental health discussion early can help empower, educate and motivate children to take the lead.”
Mr Christofides is exploring rolling ZZZPower out more widely across the District. He and his team are also planning a virtual information night for parents throughout the District in the Spring, where they can hear directly from Dr. Naidoo. Details will be shared when they’re available. Additionally, the Safe and Caring Schools team is working with secondary students, who are part of the District Student Advisory Council, on a virtual Mental Health Conference in April where students will learn about sleep from Dr. Naidoo and hear from others about important factors, such as stress and healthy relationships, that also influence mental wellness.
This builds on the work that began in September 2019 focusing on the importance of sleep and its connection to students’ readiness to learn at school and their mental health. For children and youth, getting enough sleep contributes to better concentration, fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and fewer behavioral challenges.
Posted February 2021