Not Getting Enough Sleep? Tired Teachers Aren’t Usually the Best Teachers
Sleep is extremely important to the well-being of teenagers – but they’re not getting enough. According to a 2016 study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 69 percent of high school students are getting less than eight hours of sleep on an average school night. Sub-optimal sleep for teenagers has been linked to academic inhibitors (e.g., attention and retention issues), mental health problems (e.g., increased risk of depression), and physical challenges (e.g., teens with less sleep are more likely to be overweight.)
Unfortunately, individual educators can’t do much to make sure their students sleep enough at night, although districts across the country have been devising new policies – including later start times, even nap clubs – to bring schools more in sync with teen sleep patterns.
What we can do is pay attention to our own sleep lives. This, it turns out, is something teachers tend to be bad at – especially early career educators. Too often, in an effort to “get it all done,” teachers stay up late and wake up early, operating on increasingly worsening sleep deficits and calling it a strong work ethic.
I was in this camp myself, until recently when I began doing a bit of research into the importance of sleep to a long, successful, and fulfilling teaching career.
Here are a few important things I discovered about sleep – and a couple of suggestions on getting more of it.
Consistency is Sleep’s Friend
The key to higher-quality, REM-filled sleep is a consistent schedule. Regular exercise helps us sleep better, as does a regular meal time and a regular bed time. In fact, one study suggests that sleep variability (i.e., going to bed at inconsistent times) is one of the most important factors in how well people sleep. It’s better then to go to bed at the same time each night rather than going to bed early tonight to “catch up” from a last night’s paper-grading marathon. Regular sleep schedules even predict better moods.