Getting a good night’s sleep is key to being at the top of your game in the classroom. But when rest is elusive how can you ensure that you catch all the zzzs? Sam from Schoolwell gives us some expert tips on sleep for the supply teacher.
- Is your bedroom dark and cool enough? Light seeping into your room from streetlights or other rooms in the house can make it difficult to drop off. Invest in some blackout blinds and make sure other lights are switched off. If you are likely to forget, try putting them on a timer so they switch off automatically! A drop in body temperature is important in triggering restful sleep, so your bedroom should be cooler than your living areas. Ideally the temperature should be somewhere between 16°C and 21°C, depending on personal preference. Good airflow is also helpful, so sleeping with the window open (if that is safe) can improve sleep quality.
- Are you getting enough exercise? It is well known that regular moderate exercise, such as walking or cycling, can improve the quality of sleep, as well as having a raft of other health benefits. The problem is that fitting exercise into your daily routine can be a challenge during term time. Even a ten minute walk daily could improve your sleep. If you can’t find a way to get out during the day, try parking a little way from school, or getting off public transport a couple of stops early, and walking in.
- Do you use your phone or tablet in bed? A 2014 study found that the blue light emitted by these devices interferes with the production of melatonin, delaying getting to sleep and making you feel less alert in the morning. There’s no denying that this is tricky if you are on day to day supply. Your phone is probably your most important tool in getting work, and sometimes messages can come in very late! Set yourself a reasonable time for a final check, based on your experience of the schools you work with, and then check again first thing in the morning.
- Do you tend to have a nightcap just before bed? While it might initially “knock you out”, alcohol tends to cause disrupted sleep, so any benefit from getting to sleep quickly is negated by waking during the night. Likewise, caffeinated drinks can disrupt sleep and should be avoided in the evening,
- Do worries keep you awake at night? Try keeping a notepad and pencil by the bed. Writing down your worries can free your mind up to go back to sleep, and often in the morning they will seem less important. If you are awake for 20 minutes or more during the night, it’s a good idea to get out of bed and do something restful (like reading a book) for a while before going back to bed. Research shows that sleeping in two blocks (known as segmented or biphasic sleep, if you want to Google it) might actually be a more natural pattern than sleeping all night, so try not to worry if you are awake for a while during the night. Most of us can quickly bounce back from a couple of bad nights, but if sleep is becoming a regular problem for you, and self help measures aren’t working, talk to your doctor. The long term health effects of lack of sleep can be serious, so make it a priority to get some rest.
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