There has been much written lately about the importance of sleep and how being well rested contributes to both mental and physical health. There has also been research on the role of sleep deprivation in children. And yet, due to the complexities of bussing, after school activities, daycare, parental schedules and other constraints, the traditional school day begins much earlier than children would rise on their own.
I experienced this first hand this week when I accompanied the artists-in-residence to the schools. Their first performance was in first period — 7:40am — which meant getting up and ready in the dark. The crowd that morning was listless, with some actually leaning back in their seats and dozing off. The second performance at 10am was noticeably more alive, and by the 1:30 show students were vibrant and engaged.
I am sure that teachers live this reality every single day, but it was vividly apparent to me (and the performers) as we watched the tenor of the crowd change with the later hour and advent of sunshine. Evidence from other national surveys indicate that “70 percent of adolescents sleep less than the recommended 8 to 9 hours each night. Lack of sleep may have a direct effect on children’s health, behavior, and development.” I know it takes a toll on adults as well.
Think of how you can role model behavior in yourself or in your organization to accommodate natural rhythms of sleep. Can you start every day later, or at least begin later in winter months when the sun is slow to rise? Is it possible to offer flex time to allow staff to follow their own internal clocks? Can you make it a family ritual to all head to bed at an earlier hour? [iPhones have a “bedtime” feature to help you get a reminder when it’s time to head for slumber]
Sleep isn’t just a luxury; it is an essential part of a balanced life. Move “getting zzz’s” up on your priority list and it will improve the effectiveness of all the other things that follow.