By Resolving Vilification, Aug 26 2016 01:26AM

By Anne Vize

Curriculum writer and instructional designer

Sleep problems

We can probably all relate to that feeling of tossing and turning at night, trying to get to sleep but with a brain that simply won't switch off. It can happen when we are trying to solve a problem, when we have something on our minds or just when our brains are a bit too busy to relax and allow us to nod off. Increased levels of stress can be one of the reasons that sleep can become somewhat of an elusive bedfellow (pardon the pun).

In the education sector, we know that stress levels for many teachers and educators are certainly on the rise. The demands of curriculum, student behaviour, administration and the need to complete ever more tasks with less resourcing and in a shorter period of time can all culminate to cause significant levels of stress for teachers. If stress is just something which happens occasionally then that is usually quite manageable - we can all usually deal with the odd night or two when sleep is a little more tricky to come by, so long as we can then return to a more relaxed state afterwards. But stress can, over time, lead to a more damaging situation called burnout. This is a state of virtually permanent stress where the body finds it difficult to turn off and relax, and can lead to more serious problems with lack of sleep as well as other difficulties such as anxiety, muscle aches and pains, headaches and insomnia.

Strategies that work

But there is some good news on the horizon! Teachers who engage some simple strategies to help reduce their levels of stress are less likely to go on to experience burnout and are also far more likely to remain in their teaching job feeling positive and engaged. Strategies that are worth a try include things like going for a walk at lunch time or after school, avoiding taking excessive work home, turning off emails and mobile phones at a particular time each night, avoiding watching screens in the hour before trying to fall asleep and restarting an exercise or recreation activity. At a school wide level, it can also be helpful to use approaches such as a professional learning network to help teachers work together across areas and locations and to employ mentoring as a way of providing support to new teachers who are often particularly at risk of dropping out of the profession in their first few years.

So if you are noticing that sleep is starting to become more difficult to attain at night or that you are feeling greater levels of stress as part of your teaching work, take action rather than simply avoiding the problem and hoping it will go away. Think about what you can do to help yourself and remember to look around your workplace and consider whole of school approaches that can help everyone feel less stressed and more able to settle down to a relaxed, long night of peaceful sleep.

Learn more

Taking Care of You - Reducing stress and burnout for teachers and educators by Australian special educator Anne Vize is a new publication with Teaching Solutions that looks at how to reduce stress levels and keep teachers in the classroom and teaching rather than succumbing to the damaging impact of stress and burnout.

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