Most teachers only get six hours’ sleep a night, because they spend more time than most people worrying about work. Some simple techniques can help. Studies of teachers’ response to job stress reveal that ruminating about work-related issues means that their brains take longer to unwind, so sleep hours and sleep quality both suffer. Writing in the Guardian, neurologist Judy Willis says that many teachers suffer from a cycle of insomnia, with unwelcome consequences including irritability, forgetfulness, lower tolerance of annoyances and less efficient organisation and planning.
During sleep the brain does some of its most creative problem solving and it releases the neurochemicals that stimulate the growth of memory connections during the sixth and eighth hours of sleep. So with the many teachers just sleeping six hours a night, they fall short of the most valuable sleep time.
Increasing the time asleep to eight hours increases memory, restores emotional calm, alert reflectiveness and job efficiency. Judy Willis has some tips for teachers to help them get a good night’s sleep:
- Bedtime rituals clear your brain of worrying about work, so try a warm bath with relaxing music before you go to bed.
- If work worries wedge themselves into your sleep cycle write them down. Make sure your last thoughts include recognising the important work you do and remembering your successes.
- Good sleep hygiene means regular sleep and wake schedules, even at weekends.
- Avoid vigorous exercise for two hours before bed. Gentle stretching, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation and calming music are better.
- Be careful with what you drink before bed and make sure it doesn’t contain caffeine. Alcohol near bedtime may help you nod off, but when it wears off you’ll wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.
- Your bedroom should be kept cool, as this is more conducive to sleep than a warm environment.
Do you have problems getting to sleep because you can’t wind down? If you’ve got any tips that work, share them with the Eteach community!