A new era in education has arrived: students of all ages are experiencing the effects of ever-increasing academic pressure. More frequent assessment, chasing ‘target’ grades, added competition for university places, and a highly competitive employment market are just a few of the demands placed upon young people.
Students must also shoulder the experience of their wider school life, and the world facing students beyond the school gate or the front door of home. It is a complex world, a difficult world and it is widely documented just how difficult students can find this living experience.
What does the added pressure mean? Quite often the answer is long-term steady disengagement with the education process, reduced performance and outcomes, and deteriorating well-being. As a result, educators are constantly looking for ways to appease these experiences by exploring ‘new’ teaching methods, offering ‘support classes’ or increasing teaching contact time. Perhaps the real solution is something more obvious and presents itself right in front of our own eyes … or behind closed eyes?
Sleep is more important than you think. While we know that all humans need sleep to keep us healthy, happy and functioning at our best, too often we get far too little of it and spend our lives compromising it. Sleep for students is especially important, as in general, they have busy days at school, run around with friends, attending ‘extra’ classes or activities, doing their homework, or keeping up with their social lives. By the end of the day, their body needs a break. Sleep allows children’s bodies to rest up in preparation for tackling the next day. It is also worth understanding that a lack of sleep does not just leave energy stores low, but even one night of poor sleep can trigger a negative hormonal response such as elevating cortisol, the stress hormone. We should perhaps view our bodies like a car; the ‘petrol tank’ is full at the beginning of the day and empty by the end of the day, so refuelling every night is essential for proper development and optimal day-to-day functioning.
Understanding Sleep Cycles
STAGE 1 & 2 You fall asleep but are not yet in a deep sleep.
STAGE 3 You are in a deep sleep. Your breathing and heart rate slow down and your body is still.
STAGE 4 Your brain is active and you dream. Your eyes move beneath your eyelids known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This sleep cycle is repeated 5 or 6 times during the night.