As you ring in the new year, you can use this as an opportunity to improve your health and wellbeing. Sleep is one of the best places to start to create a happier, healthier, more productive you. Sleep is essential for good health, and practicing restful sleep strategies can improve all aspects of your life. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep. No one is at their best when they are sleep deprived. Unfortunately, the reality of time zones means that many teachers around the world must work very early in the morning or very late at night when teaching online students in China or other countries. For example, during the winter, 7 pm in Shanghai is 3 am in California. This time difference causes many online teachers to struggle with healthy sleep habits and can even lead to burn out and sleep deprivation. Luckily, there are steps teachers can take to ensure healthy sleep while still working these hours.
Daytime Behavior that Lets You Sleep Easy at Night
For many teachers, naps may be an essential part of getting through the day. To avoid making it more difficult to sleep at night, naps should be kept short and shouldn’t happen later than mid-afternoon.1
Exercise and a healthy diet can be essential parts of healthy sleeping habits. Exercise can both help you feel more awake during the day and can also help you sleep more easily at night. It should be finished by three hours before your planned bedtime, though, or it can make sleeping more difficult. Limiting sugary foods and refined carbs can also help promote healthy sleep. Avoiding alcohol before bed can also help to improve the quality of your sleep.2
Restful Sleep Strategies at Bedtime
When you have to wake up at 3 am or earlier for work, it’s imperative that you make the rest you’re able to get count. This pressure to fall asleep can make actually falling asleep even more difficult. It’s common for people to take twenty minutes to fall asleep after lying down, but this can vary widely. Avoiding caffeine for several hours before your planned bedtime and avoiding screens for at least an hour before bed can help you fall asleep more quickly.3 Many phones and electronics now have options on them to lower blue light. Some people find this helpful if they must use their electronics shortly before bed.
Failing to fall asleep quickly can increase your anxiety, making it even more challenging to fall asleep. Many people find that mindfulness strategies can be very beneficial in those circumstances. By focusing on your breathing and relaxing your body muscle by muscle, you can deal with both mental and physical stress and make sleep easier.4
It can be easy to underestimate the importance of sleep or the amount of sleep you really need. Some people even brag about how little sleep they need to function. For tutors who have to wake up at 3 am or earlier, it is essential to have a firm bedtime. Alison Smith, educator and editor of “A Teacher’s Best Friend,” recommends setting a bedtime alarm and planning your evening backward from your intended bedtime.5
Keeping a sleep diary can be a helpful way to learn what tips and tricks work best for your sleep hygiene. If you are still struggling with sleep after implementing this advice, you may want to consult with your doctor. There are a variety of medical conditions that can impact sleep, from anxiety to sleep apnea. Many of these conditions are very treatable, and your doctor will best be able to advise you on them.6 Lack of sleep can result in a variety of health problems and should be taken seriously if it is an ongoing problem.
Better sleep for teachers means better classes for students. Part of being your best while teaching is ensuring you are getting enough sleep and are awake and ready to go when class starts. Through a combination of an early bedtime, regular naps, and optimizing the sleep you do get, you’ll be at your best while teaching regardless of what time you have to wake up. Use the new year as an opportunity to improve your sleep, and you may be surprised by the improvements you see in all aspects of your life. Your students will appreciate your efforts, and your health will, too.
Citations for Restful Sleep Strategies for Teachers:
1, 2 “How to Sleep Better.” HelpGuide.org, November 13, 2019. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/getting-better-sleep.htm.
3 “Sleep.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers. Accessed December 30, 2019. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/sleep.
4 Steer, Jo. “How to Fall Asleep at Night: 3 Tips for Teachers.” Tes, September 28, 2018. https://www.tes.com/news/how-fall-asleep-night-3-tips-teachers.
5 Smith, Alison. “7 Tips for Getting More Sleep as a Teacher.” A Teacher’s Best Friend, June 1, 2018. https://www.ateachersbestfriend.com/7-tips-for-getting-more-sleep-as-a-teacher/.
6 “Healthy Sleep Habits.” Sleep Education, February 9, 2017. http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits.
Lauren Krystaf has been teaching with ALO7 since 2017 and loves having the opportunity to teach English from anywhere with an internet connection. She enjoys traveling, reading, hiking, and spending time with her family.
Lauren has a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from SUNY Buffalo and a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Drexel University. She also has a 120 hour TESOL certificate. Lauren is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Beta Phi Mu honor societies.