Teachers cope with sleep deprivation

Emma Walz, Managing editor

According to a pen-and-paper survey administered to 52 teachers last month, the majority of teachers here, 76 percent, say that lack of sleep has affected how they work and teach.
Social studies teacher Julie Marx isn’t surprised by this statistic, attributing sleep deprivation to her weary behavior in the classroom.
“I say the wrong word frequently, and I forget things I’m supposed to do in the middle of the lesson,” Marx said.
Marx also cited fatigue, confusion, sickness, mood swings, memory problems and weight gain as effects of her sleep deprivation.
However, art teacher Joanna Waring said that her sleep schedule tends to affects her social life, not her teaching.
“I don’t think that I’m sleep deprived, but I have to be disciplined, even on the weekend, to make sure that I go to bed,” Waring said.
Both science teacher Marty Stranathan and Marx credit the widespread sleep loss among teachers to an overload of work.
“I’ll lie [in bed] for half an hour, but I start thinking I could probably wake up and get stuff done,” Stranathan said. “So I might as well get up.”
The survey also found that the top factors hindering an adequate night of sleep are lesson planning (35 percent) and grading (33 percent).
Psychology teacher Kendra Swam relates, she said, noting that the new mastery grading policy hasn’t made her sleep schedule any easier.
“Having to create retakes and grade retakes and having to supervise the retakes, has then postponed my grading,” Swam said. “I have more to do, but not anymore time to do it.”
Social studies teacher Phil Bressler on the other hand, says he can’t attribute lack of sleep to overwhelming school work.
“I just can’t sleep well,” Bressler said. “That’s me, I’m not going to blame it on the job.”
While Bressler has trouble sleeping for the recommended time period, Latin teacher Dawn Mitchell still manages to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, and attributes that to her vast amounts of experience.
“I think that as I get older in the profession, there’s a whole lot that I can do without the preparation, which is a big difference than what it was like for me 20 years ago or even 10 years ago.” Mitchell said.
Swam advocated developing a strict bedtime routine to help power down.
“It could be listening to music or just some sort of routine of washing your face or getting your outfit ready for the next day,” Swam said.
See our website for the full report on our teacher sleep survey.