Young Carers

I can't sleep!

The average human spends 25 years of their lives sleeping. However, sleep isn’t a waste of time. We all need to sleep. If we don’t get enough sleep, we not only become tired and less alert, but we put ourselves at greater risk of illness.

Sleep is necessary for our physical and mental health. It helps us fight off viruses and infections, supports growth and healing, gets rid of toxins in the body, improves our memory, and even helps us to keep a healthy weight! Humans are the only animals that control the amount of sleep they get, and our sleep habits are getting worse because of our ‘always on’ culture.

Why Sleep is Important!

Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. Some people need a lot less sleep than others, and the amount we need changes as we get older. Information on the Young Scot website explains that:

  • Those aged 11-13 need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep
  • Those aged 14-17 need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep
  • Those aged 18-25 need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep.

It’s not uncommon for young people to reverse their sleeping patterns – staying awake late into the night and then feeling sleepy during the day. However, this can interfere with schoolwork and home life.  If you’re up all night, gaming or messaging friends, and feeling tired all day, you might need to think about how you can have some screen-free wind-down time before going to bed at a reasonable time each night.

Caffeine, sugary foods, drugs and alcohol can also affect your sleep.  Avoiding these things before you go to bed will help you get a better night’s sleep.

Sometimes people find it hard to go to sleep or stay asleep for other reasons – for example, because they’re worried about something. Sometimes children may feel anxious about being alone in the dark. This is not unusual. Being worried about other things in your life can also have a big impact on your sleep – things like:

  • Problems with friends
  • Bullying
  • Worries about schoolwork
  • Family issues
  • A change in your usual routine (such as a new school or moving house).

If you’re struggling to get to sleep (or stay asleep) because you’re worried about something, there are things you can do to help yourself. 

Action you can take right now

The charity, Childline, suggests the following 10 tips for a better night’s sleep:

  1. Do some exercise, but don’t overdo it.
  2. Avoid caffeine and sugar in the afternoon / evening
  3. Avoid alcohol – it messes up your sleep patterns
  4. Eat earlier in the evening – your body needs time to digest food
  5. Relax before going to bed – try reading, but stick to paperbacks because the light from e-readers can make it harder to fall asleep
  6. Make sure you’re comfortable – your room shouldn’t be too hot or too cold, and not too noisy or bright
  7. Write it down – if there’s something on your mind, you can’t do anything about it at bedtime, so just write it down and think about it in the morning
  8. Make a list of things that make you feel good – they don’t have to be big things
  9. Turn off your phone – if you’re being kept awake by friends ringing or texting, try switching your phone to silent
  10. Picture yourself in your favourite place – close your eyes and imagine you’re in your favourite place, or somewhere you’d like to be one day.

Not every one of these ideas will work for everyone, so try different things and see what works best for you.

More Information





  • Radio 1’s Deep Sleepscapes, BBC Sounds (30 minutes each) – 32 immersive audio experiences to help you drift off into a deep sleep accompanied by a natural soundscape.
  • Calming Sounds, CBeebies Radio, BBC Sounds (1 hour to 8 hours) – OK, these recordings were made to help wee kids sleep, but we think these soothing sounds might work for big kids and even grown-ups too!



Once you learn these techniques, you’ll be able to practice them without looking at your screen before bedtime!

  • Meditation breathing techniques, Young Scot (17.5 minutes) – A short session of calming breathing exercises and gentle movement – good for just before bedtime.
  • Coping with stress: calming exercises, Childline (4.5 minutes) – A short, guided mindfulness technique to help you wind down.
  • Finger hugging, Childline (4 minutes) – A very simple mindfulness / yoga exercise to help you feel calmer. Easy to practice at bedtime.

Where to get more help

If you’re worried about not being able to sleep for weeks or months, make an appointment to talk to your GP.


Help us continue our work by making a donation to angus carers today.