Sleep, an Elusive Prize

Strategies to Improve Sleep Hygiene

No one likes to hear that sleep hygiene is integral to mental health, but poor sleep hygiene can exacerbate existing mental illness and increase the weight of stress on even the most emotionally stable people. Today, we will take a look at how sleeping poorly affects people of all ages, along with some tips to help achieve a good nights rest from leading sleeping researchers. We hope that this will finally convince educators and students across all age ranges to, please, take a nap. A good nights sleep, or small scheduled naps can improve so many aspects of your daily life.

Sleep Deprivation

When people hear about sleep deprivation their first thought goes to extreme cases such as torture, in reality almost every person has experienced sleep deprivation at some point in their life. Now days its common place to get just a few hours of sleep in between work, school, and activities, with most people averaging around 6 hours a night. With the recommended amount of sleep for adults being 8-10 hours of sleep, averaging around 6 hours a night will cause long term sleep deprivation. This means a majority of people are in a state of sleep deprivation causing them to suffer physiological and psychological symptoms. Again, this isn’t new information, but how can you measure the quality of your sleep and find what habits are impacting you poorly?

The Sleep Hygiene Index (SHI)

There’s a lot more nuance to quality of sleep than getting the recommended hours, the quality of sleep matters more than quantity. This is why people with depression tend to sleep excessively and still feel exhausted. Questions in the Sleep Hygiene Index are based on proven actions that can diminish your quality of sleep and worsen daytime sleepiness. You may be surprised at what mundane habits can negatively impact how we fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up.

To figure your SHI simply rate each statement using a scale of 1-5, one (1) being never and five (5) being always. Then add the ratings together for your total. The higher the number the worse your sleep hygiene habits are.

Sleep Hygiene Index:
Please Rate Statements Using a Scale of 1-5.
1- Never, 2- Rarely, 3- Sometimes, 4- Often, 5- Always
I take daytime naps lasting two or more hours. 1 2 3 4 5
I go to bed at different times from day to day. 1 2 3 4 5
I get out of bed at different times from day to day. 1 2 3 4 5
I exercise to the point of sweating within 1 h of going to bed. 1 2 3 4 5
I stay in bed longer than I should two or three times a week. 1 2 3 4 5
I use alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine within 4 h of going to bed or after going to bed. 1 2 3 4 5
I do something that may wake me up before bedtime (for example: play video games, use the internet, or clean). 1 2 3 4 5
I go to bed feeling stressed, angry, upset, or nervous. 1 2 3 4 5
I use my bed for things other than sleeping (for example: watch television, read, eat, work or study). 1 2 3 4 5
I sleep on an uncomfortable bed (for example: poor mattress or pillow, too much or not enough blankets). 1 2 3 4 5
I sleep in an uncomfortable bedroom (for example: too bright, too stuffy, too hot, too cold, or too noisy). 1 2 3 4 5
I do important work before bedtime (for example: pay bills, email, schedule, or study). 1 2 3 4 5
I think, plan, or worry when I am in bed. 1 2 3 4 5
Total (out of 65) =
The larger the total number, the more maladaptive behaviors impact sleep hygiene. Average Score= 35 Average Range= 17<55

Most of us are guilty of many (if not all) of these less-than-ideal habits that negatively impact our sleep, especially with our current era’s tech-dependent socializing. Regulating these maladaptive behaviors is essential, especially for educators. Their punishing schedules and heightened risk for compassion fatigue demand prioritization of self-care. Reverse engineering the SHI statements listed creates a list of ways to improve your sleep hygiene, along with areas you specifically need to focus on. Then find ways to incentivize self care. For example, meditation leading into a nice session of reading (ideally not on a device) before bed can change the game on how quickly you fall asleep.

The full study devising the sleep index can be found here, though sadly behind a paywall. We’ve included the good stuff up above.

Lack of Sleep Cycle

Teachers don’t get enough sleep. About 100 teachers were in this study. This study used 4 different measures of health and sleep: the Horne & Ostberg, Epworth Sleepiness Scale, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index questionnaires and 14 day sleep journals. The average high school teacher in the study was consistently lacking at least one hour of sleep. Also, about 50% of high school teachers teachers were diagnosed with daytime sleepiness and poor sleep quality. As the study says, “This situation may compromise health and quality of life.” For the people living this its a big “No Duh” but just because its considered the norm, doesn’t mean it should be normal. Make an effort to improve your own sleep to see you health and quality of life also improve.

In another study called Log In and Breathe Out We hear a series of statements we know in the abstract but may never have taken seriously.

“Insomnia and work-related stress often co-occur. Both are associated with personal distress and diminished general functioning, as well as substantial socio-economic costs due to…reduced productivity at the workplace and absenteeism.”

Log In and Breath Out

The study goes on to say “Diffuse boundaries between work and private life can additionally complicate the use of recreational activities that facilitate cognitive detachment.” An obvious statement, but if you’re unable to separate from work long enough to even sleep, the lack of sleep makes it harder to do fun things to help you disengage to sleep. What a terrible cycle!

In short, there’s a ton of research out there about improving sleep hygiene. We know it and we know you do too. Educators owe it to themselves to give sleep hygiene the intense focus and devotion they give their students. That’s all we’re trying to get at, here. Check out our resources at the bottom to explore the current research.

A side note: this article focused on educators and their sleep hygiene. However, while researching this, we found an excellent study entitled A school-based sleep hygiene education program for adolescents in Japan: a large-scale comparative intervention study. It is linked here and has really important insights specific to adolescents.

Assessment of Sleep Hygiene Using the Sleep Hygiene IndexA school-based sleep hygiene education program for adolescents in Japan: a large-scale comparative intervention studySleep habits, daytime sleepiness and sleep quality of high school teachersSleep Hygiene and Melatonin Treatment for Children and Adolescents With ADHD and Initial InsomniaCultivating teacher mindfulness: Effects of a randomized controlled trial on work, home, and sleep outcomes.Use of sleep hygiene in the treatment of insomniaKnowledge and practice of sleep hygiene techniques in insomniacs and good sleepersDevelopmental aspects of sleep hygiene: Findings from the 2004 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America PollLog in and breathe out: efficacy and cost-effectiveness of an online sleep training for teachers affected by work-related strain - study protocol for a randomized controlled trialRelationship of Sleep Hygiene Awareness, Sleep Hygiene Practices, and Sleep Quality in University Students
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I am the co-creator of FightSong!. Currently I live in Las Vegas, although I'm always traveling to spread to message of FightSong! Mental Health Advocacy and supporting students and counselors is really important to me. After highschool and college I was diagnosed with a mental health disorder I had been struggling with my whole life. Through counseling and support from my family I am able to be the rockstar I am today.

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One Comment

  1. For our part, we love that the Nobel Assembly has shed light on the subject of sleep by awarding the Nobel Prize in Medicine this year to these three scientists, and we applaud them.  The 21 century is taking its toll on the world s sleep and health, but now we can take one giant step closer to a better understanding of how sleep can work for us, optimise our health, and improve our lives.

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