Scanlan Center for School Mental Health
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The Well-Rested Educator: 7 Tips for Sounder Slumber

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written by

Alyssa Provencio

Educator Wellness

Experts constantly emphasize the fundamental importance of adequate sleep for maintaining optimal health and well-being.

As educators, we likely even promote healthy sleep habits for our students, recognizing that well-rested learners are more engaged and alert during class.

But do we give that same attention to our own sleep habits?

Quality of sleep can affect so many aspects of our daily functioning including our ability to focus, energy levels, mental health, and mood.

You have likely heard about the number of hours you should sleep, the position you should sleep in, or the pillow you should buy. While some of this advice can be useful, you may be looking for something to make a longer-lasting change in your sleep quality.

Sleep hygiene is a set of practices that can be incorporated into your daily routine to improve quality of sleep. Therapists will often talk with clients about strategies for sleep hygiene, and we will cover a few of these here.

  1. Get regular sleep. Going to bed and waking up at a consistent time, even on your day off, can help you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. Try using a sleep diary like this one to track your sleep pattern for a couple of weeks.
  2. Avoid caffeine later in the day. Caffeine (i.e. coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.) acts as a stimulant and can stay in your system for 6-10 hours, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
  3. Avoid naps. Napping can disrupt your circadian rhythm. If naps are difficult to avoid, try napping before 3 pm and for no longer than an hour.
  4. Use your bed for sleep. Try to use your bed for sleeping rather than a place you also use for working, eating, watching TV, etc. This will help your body associate your bed with sleep rather than activity or even stress.
  5. Don’t just lay awake. If you are having a hard time falling asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something calming or boring. Try meditating, doodling, or even reading the dictionary. Avoid bright lights or stimulating activities and when you feel tired, return to bed.
  6. Make your bedroom comfortable. Setting up your bedroom to create comfort is important for associating your bedroom with sleep. A dark, quiet, cool room is best for quality sleep – an eye mask, earplugs, and/or a fan can be useful tools.
  7. Develop a sleep ritual. Having a short, 15-minute nightly practice to help your body feel ready to sleep can help you fall asleep. This can look like taking a warm bath, a meditation or relaxation practice (try this audio-guided box breathing activity!), or reading a book.

It is important to consider that sleep difficulties related to medical conditions, such as insomnia, may require medical treatment and sleep hygiene can be a supplemental practice. If you have concerns with your sleep, it may be a good idea to talk with your medical doctor. Additionally, some strategies might work better for you than others – take what fits with your culture and lifestyle! Sweet dreams 😊

Alyssa Provencio is currently a student clinician at the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health and is a student in the University of Iowa College of Education’s Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program.