TM4T NQT - A Teachers Guide to Sleep

There is probably already too much advice already available on the Web about 'How to Sleep Well' and some teachers have tried everything from herbal tea to hypnotherapy. But since you've asked...

Our advice is (a) have a look at some general purpose checklists and cherry pick anything that appeals to you - see end of sheet for examples (b) consider our following teacher-specific tips and (c) talk to your GP if you are worried that your sleep is affecting your health

Teachers frequently have sleep-problems. Firstly because they work past sensible bed-times, but also because - when they finish the after-hours work - their minds are racing; either whizzing through what they've done today, what they didn't do today, or what they have to do tomorrow (oh, no; 10C again and I haven't marked their tests)... sometimes you just can't stop the day you've had coming back to you, or the day ahead rushing towards you. How can you sleep through this? Here are our specific tips for teachers:

1. Know how much sleep you need and when your bed-time is

You should have your own school night standard. This doesn't mean you have the same amount of sleep each night or go to bed at the same time. That is silly: you will sometimes have to, or choose to, stay up late or go to bed early, but when that happens you need to be aware of it, and ideally in control of it.

2. Turn off the computer 30 minutes before "bed-time"

This means PC, laptop, i-Phone; anything that might alert you to e-mails, text messages, posts, prompts, prods or pokes. Check your mail, have the last word, then switch it off. Some teachers disconnect from the Web and keep typing but we say 'No', switch everything off.

Yes, yes, I knew you were going to say that: you can't turn off your smart-phone, what about an emergency? Well, this means you need to change your lifestyle a little. If you haven't got a land-line telephone, buy a cheap pay-as-you go handset and use it as your 'emergency' phone. Make sure your loved ones know that you have a night-time phone for emergencies only, and that your regular device will be switched off. You may also need to buy an alarm clock. And a torch. Whatever apps you use at bed-time, find a substitute.

3. And Finally...

Make a mini-mental-list of things you need to do before you go to bed. Then do them. Put that text book in your bag and choose tomorrow's trousers. Done.

4. And Then...

On your Ticklist if you have one, or in your Notebook or Planner, or just on a piece of paper, write down things you want/need to do tomorrow. If they're already written down, asterisk them. If they're already asterisked, asterisk them twice. Then put your Ticklist, Notebook, Planner, or piece of paper away, in your work-bag, along with any marking, reports, or anything else you've brought from school. Now put your work-bag as far away from your bedroom as you can, without actually going out into the street. Ideally you should have two closed doors between your bedroom and your work.

5. Find someone to talk to.

Not as easy as it sounds. In order to qualify as 'someone' a person has to match these criteria:

  • a nice person,
  • someone who cares about you
  • a good listener,
  • not employed in education.

 The Samaritans don't count.

Now talk to them. Don't try and be constructive, just let it all out. Don't ask for advice on what to do about 10C, just tell your someone what little shits they are.

6. Pen and paper

If anything else occurs to you, you need to write it down. Not using your i-Phone. Not on your Ticklist. Just a bit of paper next to our bed, where you will see it in the morning. As you write, tell yourself what you are doing: you are getting it OUT of your head and dumping it onto the paper. It will be added to the Ticklist tomorrow and it will be dealt with, so you don't need to think about it now. Tell yourself: this is a GOOD thing, especially if it is a lesson idea, or something that needs doing. Now you can sleep.

7. Relax

Mindfulness techniques may not be specifically aimed at sending you to sleep, but they do help to calm a racing mind. By focusing on yourself, your own body and breathing, you can help to pre-empt the onset of the racing mind.

Sleep well.

Some general sleep advice can be found here and here.