“Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds.” – JoJo Jensen
When I was a kid, my grandfather went to bed early. When I say early, I am talking about evening news early, not 9:00 early. In fact, it was a well-established rule that if you wanted to talk to my grandpa, you had to call before the local news went off at 6:30. After that, he was either getting ready for bed or already in it. Now, to be fair, he was up well before the sun, and you could call him at five, and he might already be up and out of the house. As I have grown older, either that experience with my grandpa or genetics has pushed me towards the same kind of rhythm. I am usually ready to go to bed by 8:30 and prepared to get up much earlier than the rest of the house. For me, sleep is critical to be ready to perform at a high level each day.
We are only beginning to appreciate and understand the importance of sleep, and this is especially critical for our students. The world we interact with sends students mixed messages about rest. For many of them, they know it is essential, but they also have other stuff they either want or need to get accomplished. They procrastinate and then stay up late to complete homework. They get immersed in a video game with friends and play until the early hours of the morning. I understand that my sleep rhythm and that of most of society might be different. Still, the importance of getting the correct quality and quantity of sleep is critical to our success. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders. Sleep deficiency is also associated with poor judgment, an increase in human errors, and a higher risk of injury for both adults and teens. Without it, we may find ourselves acting like two-year-olds without even realizing it. We need our rest.
In the last month, our lives have been completely disrupted, and our stress levels have increased. It is more important than ever that we get our rest. Research suggests that our sleep can be positively impacted by our decisions, especially those we make in the afternoons. Limiting our intake of caffeine, sugar, and processed foods have shown to improve the quality of our sleep. Exercise and sunlight both have positive effects on our sleep. Limiting our exposure to the blue lights associated with electronic devices just before bed can lead to a better night’s sleep. To be at our best during the day, we must take the time to clear our minds and give our children the same opportunities.
If you have young children, you have more than likely experienced the effects of lack of sleep. I remember when our son was a newborn, he was afraid he was going to miss something and fought going to bed on a nightly basis. It was during this season of our lives that I started to appreciate the value of a good night’s sleep. On the nights I rested well, I was a better teacher the next day. While I feel for the many of you that struggle to get enough rest while dealing with young children, we must do everything in our power to maximize the quality and quantity of this time. Better sleep leads to better days.