Here’s a productivity hack: Get some sleep
Sleep is the best meditation.
— Dalai Lama
Like their peers across the country and like many, if not most, adults, Keystone students don’t get enough sleep. In these times that celebrate long hours in pursuit of high achievement, a good night’s rest often slides down the list of priorities. In addition, the tendency to look at the screens in our lives late at night can increase the difficulty of both falling and staying asleep.
As we know intuitively, a good night’s sleep is not only desirable, it’s necessary for our physical and mental health. Study after study has reaffirmed this fact. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. The way you feel while you are awake depends in part on what happens while you are sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development. Getting inadequate sleep over time can raise your risk for chronic (long-term) health problems. It can also affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others. Sleep helps with learning and the formation of long-term memories. Not getting enough sleep or enough high-quality sleep can lead to problems focusing on tasks and thinking clearly.”
Although this type of information may seem obvious, it can be all too easy for children and young adults when left to their own devices (pun intended) to ignore it. We know we feel better when we sleep the appropriate amount, and we understand that sleep helps our body repair and restore. Fortunately, for our very analytical and evidence-based Cobras, there’s research out there to support this line of thinking. From the Sleep Foundation’s “8 Health Benefits of Sleep:”
“Sleep is believed to help with memory and cognitive thinking. Brain plasticity theory, a major theory on why humans sleep, posits that sleep is necessary so the brain can grow, reorganize, restructure, and make new neural connections. These connections in the brain help individuals learn new information and form memories during sleep. In other words, a good night’s sleep can lead to better problem-solving and decision-making skills. A lack of sleep can have a negative impact on the ability to think clearly, form memories, learn well, and function optimally during the day. The ability to think quickly slows down after only a week of insufficient sleep.”
So, how do we help Cobras get enough sleep? At Keystone, we discuss the amount and type of homework students have. According to our most recent collection of data, high school students on the week that the survey was given and on average had less homework than their peers at independent schools around the country. In addition, with study halls and free periods, students should be able to make a dent in the work they do at home if they use these times productively.
In addition, we have changed our upper school midterm and final exam calendars so students have one exam a day, rather than two. This allows them to focus on one test at a time and we hope to get a good night’s sleep rather than staying up all night cramming for a test, which we know is counterproductive to learning and retaining material.
What other ways can we encourage students to develop good sleep habits? The CDC provides the following tips:
- “Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature
- Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smartphones, from the bedroom
- Avoid large meals, caffeine…before bedtime
- Get some exercise. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily.”
Perhaps another way that we adults can help students develop good sleep hygiene is modeling. I know that it’s not easy, but If they see us adults being well-rested, children and adolescents may realize that this is part of being a whole and healthy human being rather than merely something we prescribe for children and young adults but ignore when we’re older.
As we head into the winter break and prepare for the new year, perhaps sleeping well is a new year’s resolution we can create in our own lives. We wish you a 2024 filled with joy, happiness, peace, and rest.