Sleeping well | Education Support Partnership

Sleeping well

Sleep is imperative for our minds and bodies to function. This is because just one bad night’s sleep affects our mood, concentration and alertness whilst long-term sleep deprivation has far more serious consequences. Research has linked it to a number of serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and strokes. (The Great British Bedtime Report from the Sleep Council). Research also shows that people need 8 hours sleep, though this can vary individually.

Children seem to sleep through the night with much less effort and often for adults it is our emotional worries and distresses that get in the way. We need sleep for our prefrontal cortex to work effectively and not let our emotional brain take over. Our prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain that thinks rationally, reduces our inherent biases, makes more effective decisions and judgements, allows us to be empathetic, listen and be able to see other points of view.  

When our emotional brain is in the driving seat we respond much more in flight or fight mode where our interest is in our survival, not the high order tasks that we need to do at work school or at home. This is where we are much more likely to experience stress, anxiety, catastrophic thinking and it makes it much harder for our prefrontal cortex to work.  

So sometimes when we feel irritable, angry, tearful or unable to work it can be because we just need some sleep. If you have had a poor night sleep or are tired be kind to yourself and know that it is impossible to do your best work or thinking.  

Do keep in mind that if you are stressed, anxious or experiencing traumatic events then it can be really hard to sleep.  You may want to get some help with this as in the longer term these issues will become exacerbated by the lack of sleep. 

Sleep suggestions:

  • Have a bath before bed. It lowers your temperature and this aids better sleep
  • Keep the temperature in your room low at 16 degrees
  • Switch off all devices and keep them out of your room
  • Do not look at any screens an hour before bed
  • Read, or listen to audios or podcasts or the radio. Think about the content of this to ensure it does not raise your heart beat or cause distressing emotions
  • Try where possible to get into a regular pattern of sleep as the body finds this easier e.g. a bedtime of 11pm-7am most nights
  • Do not get fixated with having to sleep as this can cause stress. When in bed think about doing the following 3 things; Relaxing, Rejuvenating and Recharging
  • If you wake up and cannot get back to sleep for 20 minutes, get up and do something soothing like reading a book
  • Before bed ensure you have written down on paper all tasks or things to do or issues.  Research shows that people who do this fall asleep much faster. People who are better at time management and have effective tools or systems that work for them have better peace of mind. For example, write everything down that has bothered you about the day –if the class seemed to not be listening or well misbehaving – break it down – it’s never more than one of two children. Call a colleague – talk it through, come up with strategies to start the next day. Or if you have reports to write –make a date and time for each report - complete what you find easiest first.
  • Use hypnotherapeutic audios or meditations when in bed or practice meditation/mindfulness to calm your mind
  • Cut back on alcohol, stimulants like caffeine and cheese
  • Short naps can be really helpful ideally from 10-20 minutes.  Research shows that if you drink a cup of coffee, nap for 10-20 minutes you then get the boost of the caffeine kicking in after 25 minutes combined with the restorative powers of the nap. Sounds odd but try it (Dan Pink’s Book, The Science of Timing)

“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.” 
Homer,  The Odyssey 

What can you do if you are feeling overwhelmed:

Ask yourself: