By Ray Petersen — If I had a baisa, for every time a student said to me, “But I am very tired teacher,” I may not be wealthy, but I would be richer, and it set me to thinking. How much sleep do we really need? Sleep, like our diets and exercise, is vital to our physical, cognitive, and emotional health. Maybe those students should decorate their bedrooms like classrooms?
We humans need sleep, just as surely as we need water, oxygen, and food, and although it may feel like a waste of time, we do need to spend around a third to a quarter of our lives at complete rest, basically in order to recharge our body’s ‘batteries.’ We do have a ‘natural’ sleep/wake cycle, which is called a ‘circadian rhythm.’ However this is complicated by such day-to-day influences as the artificial stimulants, tea, coffee, and energy drinks, the subtle light sources of our mobile phones and portable devices, and even by alarm clocks.
A research paper by the American National Sleep Foundation panel of experts in medicine, physiology and science had this to say about the amount of sleep we need in today’s world: “The appropriate sleep duration for newborns is between 14 and 17 hours, infants between 12 and 15 hours, toddlers between 11 and 14 hours, preschoolers between 10 and 13 hours, and school-aged children between 9 and 11 hours. For teenagers, 8 to 10 hours was considered appropriate, 7 to 9 hours for young adults and adults, and 7 to 8 hours of sleep for older adults.”
That is much more sleep than I thought we ever needed. Interestingly, though they certainly qualify their findings by commenting that we are all different, and that the recommendations are based on healthy individuals, not suffering from sleep disorders of any kind, they actually comment too, that to deviate significantly from the ranges identified may be, “exhibiting signs or symptoms of serious health problems or, if done volitionally, may be compromising their health and well-being.”
There are a number of things you can do too, to ensure that you have good quality sleep such as exercising daily, and I’ll never forget my old doctor, Dr Ross, saying that, “If you feel lethargic, you should always do some form of activity.”
He advocated that exercise and exertion ‘wake’ the body, and it stands to reason that wakeful pursuits will be balanced by effective sleep.
Maybe you can look at your bed, and bedroom, from a different perspective too, with an emphasis not so much on fashion and appearance, as functionality. Ensure that your mattress and pillow/s are comfortable, and that you have appropriate covers, and sleeping apparel. Is the temperature when I’m sleeping appropriate to a sound sleep?
Are there any noises, or light sources I can reduce or eliminate, with particular emphasis on ‘function’ LED lights that signify operation, or messages, on phones, computers, chargers etc? Electronics can be a subtle ‘sleep stealer’ due to their ability to stop melatonin secretions in the brain, essential to sleep, and should be turned off where possible.
Of course, we all know that stimulants such as alcohol, tea, coffee, and the like, will affect your ability, not only to sleep, but to take any quality from your sleep. So try to stick to a sleep schedule, even, or should I say, especially on ‘no-work’ days.
Importantly, make your sleep as much of a priority as your food and drink. I think the oxygen thing will take care of itself! You must schedule sleep like any other daily activity, so put it on your list, and mentally, cross it off every night. Don’t make it the thing you do only after everything else is done. Instead, you should stop, or limit, doing other things.
I’ll never forget a poster on Dr Ross’s surgery wall either. Not verbatim, but it suggested eating dinner, doing homework, playing and talking to Mum and Dad as very important to your sleep. Have a hot bath, wash your ears properly and clean your teeth. Wear warm pyjamas, and read from a book every night, before prayers, and kisses from Mum and Dad. Say goodnight, fall asleep, and dream. It really takes me back.
Some people though, prefer to laugh about sleep. Here are some great thoughts and quotes: “At night I can’t sleep, and in the morning I can’t wake up! (Anon)” Or this letter… “Dear sleep, I know we had problems when I was younger, but now I love you (Anon).” And let’s finish on this one from quotesgram, for all of those students out there: “In bed, it’s 6 am and you close your eyes for a minute, next thing it’s 7:45 am, but at school, at 1:30 pm, you close your eyes for 5 minutes, and it’s 1:31pm.”