Sleep is such a huge part of children’s success at school. Healthy sleep enhances student’s cognitive development because sleep helps to incorporate learning into permanent memory (also called memory consolidation). Sleep also aids in organizational skills, multi-tasking, planning, and executive function.
If students aren’t getting enough sleep they will struggle in so many aspects. Not only may they be spending their day yawning away or even doze off in the middle of class but teachers may see them have difficulties in areas like their academic performance, their ability to remember their school work, their concentration and general behavior (both in the classroom and how they interact with their peers).
What is worrying is that students appear to be sleeping less these days than they did in the past because their bedtimes are becoming later. This is due to many different factors some that are more easily addressed than others. Factors such as more homework, two working parents, more after-school activities and not prioritizing sleep.
Schools can help guide their students and parents to make healthy sleep choices in a number of different ways.
Watch for struggling students.
Teachers have the ability to really watch their students on a day to day basis and check for signs of students that may not be getting the sleep that they need. Teachers can watch to see if students are showing signs of daytime sleepiness, inattention, showing poor focus and concentration, issues with getting along with peers and also just coming to school looking tired or exhausted. It isn’t enough though just to check for these signs, teachers then need to take action when they identify a struggling student.
Check in with parents.
Schools have many opportunities to check in with parents – through curriculum nights, parent-teacher conferences and other informal conversations. If a teacher notices that a student is struggling due to not enough sleep then teachers should consider making sleep a topic of discussion during these check-ins. Teachers can even send information home to parents about sleep for students as well. You can find my factsheet to use here.
Make sleep part of the curriculum.
This is a big way of teaching students the importance of sleep but can also be a way to help parents learn as well. I have been into schools and taught sleep to students and it is wonderful to see how much they learn and want to improve their sleep afterward. I have had students go back home and tell their parents that both they and their parents need to go to bed earlier!
While a Child Sleep Consultant going into the school and workshopping with students is a wonderful way to teach sleep, this can also be done with the teacher teaching the unit as well. Teachers should focus on why we need sleep, sleep hygiene, stages of sleep and how much sleep is needed.
When teachers do the unit on sleep with their students it is important to send the information home to parents. Any handouts that you give students can be put in their folders to bring home that week. Generally, when parents are involved in their child’s learning and understand it, they are much more likely to support it.
Hold sleep workshops at school.
Many parents are likely struggling with ensuring their children are getting enough sleep. Maybe they aren’t knowledgeable about how much sleep their children need or there are issues they need to address to ensure their children can sleep better. Bringing in a Child Sleep Consultant to do workshops can really help with this. This would be especially important at the start of the school year, or perhaps late in the summer vacation so parents can get their children well rested for the start of the school year and address the slide that often happens in sleep over the vacation. Holding a few workshops around sleep throughout the year as well will help get parents prioritizing sleep for their kids and help the school promote healthy sleep habits year round.