I know it may sound weird, but I’m obsessed with sleep. I love sleep. My family teases me incessantly because I go to bed at 9:30 p.m. every night, even if I’m in the middle of a movie, so I can read and fall asleep by 10:15 p.m. And I won’t wake up before 6:15 a.m., so I get my eight hours of sleep. I plan everything—my travel schedule, my social life, my time with family—around making sure I get a good night’s sleep because the bottom line is I function better when I’m well rested. We all do.
As the son of a teacher, I learned that on top of everything teachers have to juggle, you’re also athletes. Seriously. Think about the physical demands of being a teacher. You have to stand for hours. Some of you have to chase after kids. And you all have to perform. Like an athlete, your job as a teacher is incredibly rewarding, but that doesn’t override the fact that it’s also exhausting. You need endurance. Great marathon runners don't run 20 miles every day. They run 20 on Sunday, rest on Monday, run five the next day, then 10.
To mirror that, after a long day in the classroom teaching, inspiring, and caring for students, you’re tired. You need to recharge your body by getting an adequate amount of sleep. When you don’t, your mental and physical health weakens, which means it’s hard to be the best version of yourself. With all the pressures on you these days, getting your rest is more important than ever. It will boost your mood, improve your memory, and increase your patience, which will all help you be a better teacher.
Don’t Sleep on It: The Importance of Rest
Everyone needs a certain amount of sleep to perform to their best potential. Adults ages 18–65 need at least seven hours of sleep each night. According to EdWeek, adults have more mood swings, more indecision, and a worse memory when sleep deprived. Tired teachers can project these negative emotions onto their students, which can discourage their classroom performance. With the stresses of being leaders, caregivers, and athletes, rest may not always come easily for teachers. But you deserve it. By putting yourself first, you’re simultaneously putting your students first.
Here are some tips on how to improve and protect your sleep.
Tip 1: Consistency Is Key: Set . . . Sleep . . . Succeed
Just as great athletes need consistent schedules to be disciplined in their training, you also need routines to grow acclimated to healthy sleep habits. Go to bed early enough to get a good night’s rest. Set an alarm to remind yourself when to go to sleep as well as when to wake up. Practice this same routine each day for consistency. Your body will become accustomed to this pattern, resulting in better-quality sleep and healthier days.
Tip 2: Turn Off the Lights . . . Including the Cell Phone
The same way runners take precautions like stretching and hydrating to prevent injuries and enhance their performance, you should create a nightly routine to unwind and promote healthy sleep. Make sure your room is a comfortable temperature, quiet, and dark. Close the curtains to block outside light from entering your room, but also limit the artificial light that comes from your electronics. Exposure to blue light can especially negatively impact your sleep cycle by making falling and staying asleep difficult. Turn off your phone at least 30 minutes before you get into bed. Instead of scrolling, try reading, journaling, or listening to music.
Tip 3: Associate Your Bed with Sleep . . . and Only Sleep
The track is for running, your desk is for work, and your bed is for rest. Athletes don’t exercise right before bed as it increases their adrenaline, making it harder to fall asleep. In the same way, you shouldn’t be doing tasks that are stressful before bedtime. If you do activities that call for alertness in bed, whether it’s replying to emails or watching TV, your subconscious will associate your bed with being awake. Conversely, if you only use your bed for rest, your mind and body will associate your bed with sleep, making falling asleep at night easier.
You’re not just teachers—you’re multifaceted caregivers, leaders, mentors, and athletes. Sometimes you might find yourself trying to do it all.
You may invest time and energy—both mentally and physically—to serve your students, but don’t forget to demonstrate the same levels of love, care, and understanding for yourself. You deserve to prioritize your needs. And your students deserve you at your best.
To hear more about the importance of sleep and how to prioritize yourself, listen to this episode of the Extraordinary Educators™ Podcast.