It’s time to get serious about sleep. You’re a teacher, and the reality is, teaching can be stressful and draining. No matter how much you love your job, teaching is not easy. However, there is something that you can do that would not only make teaching easier but will also improve every other aspect of your life–get more and better sleep!
Now, I can fill this entire blog post with the science behind good sleep hygiene. However, I am just going to provide you with an in-a-nutshell breakdown of what happens when you don’t get quality sleep.
- brain fog
- depression and anxiety
- memory issues
- weight gain
- heart disease
The first three conditions begin almost immediately after a couple of nights of poor sleep. While the last three conditions are associated with long-term sleep deprivation.
If you’re a person who thinks sleep is overrated, you’re mistaken. Stop burning the midnight oil. Your job is important, but how well can you perform at school if your mental clarity and mood are suffering?
Not to worry! You can get better sleep, and I know some awesome sleep hacks that I can’t wait to share with you. Everything I mention in this blog post I do on a daily basis. Now, you don’t have to do everything I mention, but even if you try 2 or 3 things, your sleep will improve!
So, let’s get started!
1. Give Yourself a Caffeine Curfew
Do you depend on that mid-afternoon jolt to power through the day? Even if you are unaware of it, consuming caffeine later in the day does affect your sleep. You may think you are sleeping just fine even with your afternoon latte. However, caffeine has been shown to keep people from entering deep sleep, a phase of sleep that is critical to repair and restoration.
Afternoon caffeine just creates a vicious cycle:
- you have coffee in the afternoon; you don’t sleep well…
- you have your cup of morning Joe and are feeling great…
- but by the time the afternoon rolls around, your poor night of sleep catches up to you and you’re exhausted…
- you drink more caffeine…
- and the cycle continues.
Teacher Sleep Hack: Stop drinking caffeinated beverages at least 8 hours before bed.
2. Block Blue Light in the Evenings
Our bodies are not designed for the amount of light we are exposed to in the evenings, especially the blue light that is common in most of our workspaces and homes (side note: digital devices also emit a lot of blue light). Blue light isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s not natural for us to be exposed to it during the evenings.
For most of our existence on earth, once the sun went down, we didn’t have much light (perhaps a little red light from a fire, but definitely no blue light). This absence of blue light tells our body it’s time to sleep, and we begin to produce melatonin (an important sleep hormone).
In modern life, we don’t have this absence of blue light in the evenings. We are surrounded by blue light LEDs and screens well into the night, so our body gets confused and doesn’t properly produce melatonin. Don’t worry, I am not asking that you turn off all lights at 5: 00 pm and read by candlelight.
Teacher Sleep Hack: Wear blue-light blocking glasses two to three hours before you want to fall asleep. Yes, they really work!
Distance Learning Update: If you’re now spending hours on a screen, consider wearing daytime blue light blocking glasses.
3. Take a Digital Detox
Our phones, tablets, and computers are amazing inventions. But, do we really need to use them ALL day? Researchers are finding a strong correlation between social media and mood disorders. So take stock of how your screen time is affecting you. If it’s not uplifting or improving your life, ditch it for a few hours before bed. Also, screen time = blue light, so there’s that.
Teacher Sleep Hack: No phones or computers in the evenings.
4. Read by Amber Light
If you want to read at night, think about using this amber clip light. My daughter uses it while she’s reading in bed. It doesn’t emit any blue light, but it still illuminates the pages well enough to read. Instead of scrolling on my phone at night, I now read with this same clip light. Reading is far more conducive to falling asleep then wading through social media and news!
Teacher Sleep Hack: Use this inexpensive amber light to read some good books.
5. Try Magnesium Oil
In addition to my blue-light blocking glasses, I swear by magnesium oil. Seriously, this stuff is amazing. The name magnesium oil is a bit of a misnomer; it’s actually not an oil. It’s a magnesium chloride and water solution that you apply to the inside of your arms. Many of us are deficient in magnesium, which is essential for hundreds of biological functions. Magnesium helps the body maintain balance, avoid illness, and perform well under stress. Magnesium’s benefits can also include reduced symptoms fatigue, insomnia, or other metabolic conditions that will increase energy levels throughout the entire day (hello, this is important for teachers!).
This stuff is magic. I spray it on before bed, and if I wake up in the middle of the night, I spray it on again. It has a calming and relaxing effect, and it’s completely natural and good for you.
Teacher Sleep Hack: Spray this magnesium oil on 30 minutes before bed.
6. Sunlight Is Your Friend
Getting some bright sunlight early in the day sets up your circadian rhythm. After all, our ancestors were out in the sun first thing each day. Bright sunlight in the morning stimulates cortisol (the opposite of melatonin) production. We need this surge of cortisol to get out of bed and get on with our day. Also, when you have this surge of cortisol in the morning (when you’re supposed to), you’re less likely to have high cortisol levels in the evening (when it’s time to sleep).
Teacher Sleep Hack: Get 15-30 minutes of sunlight before 9:00 am.
Think about how you can build this “sun time” into your day. Can you take your recess break outside? Can you teach PE to your students during the morning? Can you volunteer for morning duty? If you’re at a late-start school, getting some morning sun should be very manageable.
7. Try A Natural Sleep Aid
If you need a little help getting your circadian rhythm back in order, you may want to try this mushroom elixir tea. Full disclosure: it tastes horrible, but it does work. If you are already doing several of the hacks above, you most likely won’t need this. However, if you’re having a particular restless evening or you’re still trying to reset your circadian clock, this tea can help.
Teacher Sleep Hack: Drink a reishi mushroom elixir 30-60 minutes before bed.
“Meditation doesn’t work for me,” “I am not a meditator,” “My mind is too active for meditation.” These are things I would say before I really made an effort to meditate. Now, I am a full-fledge meditation convert. I use the app Headspace, and now when I wake up in the middle of the night, I can easily fall back asleep using the techniques I have learned. My daughter and I both fall asleep to Headpace’s “sleep casts” every night. I signed up for the paid version, but the free version is a great way to start meditation. I promise anyone can learn to meditate!
Teacher Sleep Hack: Find at least 5-10 minutes a day to meditate.
Now, I hope this list doesn’t overwhelm you. I actually could have added several more hacks, but I really don’t want you to try to do ALL THE THINGS. I didn’t start off doing every hack on this list. I eased into this over several months. I want you to approach this in the same manner. Pick one or two things from the list to try this week. Then, next week, add one or two more hacks.
When you get more sleep, everything in life improves, not just your teaching!
Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links. I only include affiliate links for products and resources that I have personally use and believe in.