We have discussed some of the things that interfere with learning and will now shift our focus to what a person needs to know and do to become a moral happy functioning human being (i.e. what educators should be teaching).
Ben Franklin taught “early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.” Long before Mr. Franklin shared his aphorism, the book Ethics of Our Fathers was compiled by a group of sages. This book gives guidelines for living the good life. In chapter 6 of this book the 48 ways to acquiring the wisdom necessary to become a person of integrity and honor is delineated. Sufficient sleep made this list.
Having sufficient sleep makes you feel positive and energetic and thus better able to cope with life’s challenges in a graceful way. Sufficient sleep also makes you alert and more attentive and thus able to focus better during learning. We know that sleeping difficulty, along with sales of melatonin, is on the rise. What you want to figure out is “why?” you are having difficulty getting good sleep. Some things that need to be addressed are life style related and some are bedtime routines
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet with a lot of vegetables, so you naturally get the nutrients you need to produce melatonin.
- Get about 15 minutes of sun a day.
- Physical exertion makes sleeping easier, so engage in some form of physical exertion daily. Exertion is the key word. While washing dishes may be a physical activity it does not require exertion, neither does a stroll. Vacuuming on the other hand is effortful as is a brisk walk. If you engage in a strenuous activity too close to bedtime make sure you follow up with a calming activity such as a warm bath, caffeine-free tea, soothing music, massage your face, hands or feet with lotion, etc.
- Make sure the room is dark. Charge your gadgets in a different room. Use an analog rather than digital clock. Don’t wear your watch to bed.
- Use a white noise machine if you need.
- When you get into bed use that time to think about what you are grateful for or what went right that day. This is not the time to mentally write tomorrow’s to-do list or think about all your worries.
- The research indicates that quality of sleep is better before 12:00 a.m., confirming what Mr. Franklin taught us, go to bed early. Being in bed somewhere between 10:00 and 11:00 is probably best. It is easy to fool yourself into thinking you cannot go to bed yet because you have so much to do, but the truth is you will accomplish more in a day in which you are well rested.
You already know lack of sleep is a learning stopper. Too much sleep is not healthy either and may be a sign of depression. So how much sleep is enough? Like most things there is a range and what you want to know is how much do you or your learner, as an individual, need. The only way to know this is to test it out. Go to sleep at least an hour earlier than usual for three days in a row. See what time you wake up naturally and energetically. If you wake up your regular time you are sleep deprived and want to run the experiment again going to bed even earlier, as you may be waking up your regular time out of habit and not restfulness. If you are waking up earlier but are not feeling energetic and ready to face the day, you may need to work on some other issues such as facing and resolving stressors in your life.