Better Sleep for Better Learning

As educators, we are relentless in our pursuit of understanding of how to enable learning to happen for our students. We consider pedagogical research and build a repertoire of approaches to meet the needs of all learners.

Before implementing new approaches, we want “evidence” that the approach has proven to be effective. But how often do we apply the same requirements to the structures of school that we take for granted?

School start times and bus pickup times, as well as rigid requirements around due dates, can actually impede learning for our young adults.

Learning requires sleep – both quality and quantity. Expert sleep researcher, Dr. Matthew Walker, has been an advocate for rethinking the structures in public education that work against student learning from the perspective of sleep.

  1. Adolescents have a phase shift in their circadian rhythms. They don’t get sleepy until much later at night, and so to cycle through all the critical elements of sleep, they must stay in bed later in the morning. Teenagers are advised to get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night.
We have to break the cultural norm of “sleep stigma”. Sleep is essential for learning

2. Sleep enables learning and memory. We need sleep BEFORE learning to prepare our brains to be able to take information in. We need sleep AFTER learning, in order to transfer what we learned during the day into long term memory, and to integrate what we learn into what we already know (Dr. M. Walker, Found My Fitness Feb. 28, 2019).

We must have sufficient quality sleep, or learning will not happen.

Tips to help teens get more sleep:

  • Ensure all devices are charges overnight outside the sleeping area
  • Buy an alarm clock (your phone is NOT an alarm clock)
  • Establish clear curfews on electronic devices (the light spectrum negatively impacts melatonin production and sleep quality/quantity)
  • Establish consistent bedtime/wake times that align with the teen’s shifted circadian rhythm
  • Ensure sufficient exercise during the day
  • Ensure outdoor time for natural light (aids in setting the circadian rhythm)

For more fascinating information on the importance of sleep for quality learning, see the Found My Fitness podcast/video below. Sleep is absolutely essential to our heath and our longevity.

As educators, how do we enhance learning and well-being through the promotion of quality sleep for our students?


Schools Start Too Early – American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

Found My Fitness podcast – Sleep with Dr. Matthew Walker

Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker

Brock University: School Start Times and Teen Sleep

Featured image by @saseko

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