Developing Sleep-Arousal Balance

Getting adequate amounts of sleep enables a student to be fully awake and have the mental energy to learn and perform in school. Students who get adequate periods of true sleep fall and stay asleep at night with few, if any, problems. Maintaining a consistent sleep-arousal balance allows students to feel alert throughout the school day.

Here are some strategies to promote adequate sleep patterns that will result in a more consistent sleep-arousal balance.

Helpful Hints

  • Suggest that students go to bed at the same time each night. Help them establish a bed-time routine, starting at dinner or just after dinner.  
  • Encourage students to engage in low intensity activities before going to bed, such as reading a book or magazine or listening to music, instead of playing video games or watching an action movie.  
  • If possible, try to lessen students’ anxiety about not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep at night; anxiety may make falling asleep even more difficult.  
  • Suggest that parents talk about the day’s events with their child while s/he lays in bed.  
  • Allow for short rest periods after school, as long as they do not make it more difficult for the student to fall asleep at night.  
  • Suggest that students utilize “white noise” or background noises to help filter sounds that might make it difficult for them to fall asleep or might wake them during the night.  
  • Encourage students to use stretching and walking around as ways to revitalize themselves throughout the day. Getting the blood flowing more evenly throughout the body results in more oxygen being carried to the brain, and thus in feeling more alert.  
  • Break long activities into short segments. Sleepiness may be diminished and arousal enhanced when longer activities are broken into shorter activities, possibly even separated by brief breaks.  
  • Monitor indicators of diminished arousal such as yawns, putting head on desk, staring into space or out the windows, tapping of hands or pencils; when these happen, take an instructionally relevant break. For example, have students talk to each other about how well they are doing, list one or more facts or skills they are learning, or what strategies they are using to complete the task as "break" activities.  
  • Have students summarize, paraphrase, etc. and then ask other students to agree or disagree, use their own words, etc. These techniques may help students actively heighten their arousal during important points in the lesson or activity. Some examples include:  
    • Listing (“Jeremy, please list for me the three key facts that have been covered so far ...”)  
    • Paraphrasing (“Amy, please summarize the lecture so far ...”)  
    • Using interspersed questions (“You can now answer the first three questions written on the board.”)