Study Reveals Over Half of Children Feel They Can’t Be Themselves, Leading to Sleepless Nights

Bonnie Evie Gifford
By Bonnie Evie Gifford,
updated on Jul 9, 2018

Study Reveals Over Half of Children Feel They Can’t Be Themselves, Leading to Sleepless Nights

A new study has revealed more than half of the nation’s young people feel unaccepted by their peers, teachers or families

The study, aimed to uncover what worries the nation’s youth, found that 56% of young people feel they cannot be their true selves around others for fear of being judged.

Commissioned as part of a sleep tech company’s ‘Drag Yourself to Bed’ story event during Pride week in London, the study aimed to uncover what worries may be affecting children’s sleeping patterns and keeping them up at night. The study also revealed one in six young people worry they are different from everybody else and feel they won’t ever find a place where they can fit in. A staggering 72% reported they have trouble getting a good night’s sleep because of their worries, with children on average being kept up three nights each week by racing thoughts.

Amongst their greatest worries, one in four reported feeling worried about their physical appearance and how they may be judged by others, with a further one in four saying they want to change something about their appearance based on this fear. 40% said they have had someone say something negative to them based on their appearance.

37% reported changing something about the way they behave in order to fit in better with others. 18% had experienced remarks based on their sexuality, and 16% had defended themselves against comments about race.

Hope Bastine, resident psychologist and the commissioner of the study for sleep tech company, Simba, said: “Most of us can remember the struggles we have encountered as we grew up. Trying to find our place in the world without having to disguise who we are can be a real challenge, and it is little surprise young people are grappling with who they are and how to assess how they are judged.

“The more we encourage tolerance and celebrate our differences from an early age, the more comfortable young people will feel and the better they will sleep at night.”

As part of their campaign to help young people get a better night's sleep, ‘Drag Yourself to Bed’, held during London Pride 2018, encouraged young people to embrace their most authentic selves. As part of the event, Courtney Act from RuPaul’s Drag Race read Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress to children to encourage them to use their imaginations, embrace what they love, and to be themselves.

Speaking at the event, Courtney Act Said: “A good night’s sleep is a super-important part of feeling good. I know when there’s lots of stuff racing around in my head it can be hard to sleep and stay asleep.

“One of the biggest things that used to keep me awake at night was worrying about my gender and sexuality. Pride is a time to celebrate what makes us unique and the more we let young people know that those things that make us different are actually our greatest strengths, the more comfortable we are in our own skin.”

Psychologist Bastine said: “The stories we read when we’re young can play a role in shaping our childhoods. A catalyst for our imaginations, they begin to acquaint us with some of life’s bigger questions and can act as rehearsals for future face-to-face interactions. Stories before bed that encourage individuality and authentic self-expression can help to develop compassion, creativity and a positive outlook.”

Bastine went on to say: “Sleep is so important to our growth when we are younger, both physically and mentally. Feeling anxious can lead to sleeplessness, and feeling tired at school or in our social circles can lead to added tensions and disagreements that could have been avoided.

“Sleep gives us great stuff for free – it makes us sharper, healthier and calmer. 'Past studies have shown that just 27 extra minutes can contribute to improvements in empathy and emotional behaviour in school.”

Poor-quality sleep can increase anxiety levels in adults and children. A study conducted by the NHS discovered those experiencing anxiety or depression typically get less than six hours of sleep each night, which can exacerbate symptoms, leading to a vicious cycle which, while tough, can be overcome.

Discover how you can help support children experiencing anxiety at Counselling Directory.

Help children build their self-esteem and feel more confident in being themselves with these self-esteem building tips from children’s mental health charity Place2Be.

Or help children to explore what worries them (and how they can overcome those feelings) with the help of these children’s books for anxious kids.

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