Sleep, Routines, and the Sleepy Brain

Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for kids, adolescents and adults. Understanding how sleep routines can impact our daily lives can help us feel better during the day.

Use our lesson plans to start open conversations about healthy sleep habits in your space, encourage curiosity about health and the body, and inspire discussions about treating others with kindness.

Image of how to help children and adolescents cope with COVID19

COVID-19 may be causing new stress and anxiety for your students.

When adults deal with COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. There are many things you can do to support your students. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information: #shareNIMH

Our Lessons

Our lessons are designed for grades K-5 with the flexibility for you to decide how much depth is appropriate for your students. The activities themselves usually take about 5-10 minutes; full lessons might be 20+ minutes with lots of conversation!

Sleep LessonsSocktopusStarry Night Light
DescriptionMake a bedtime buddy to talk about sleep routines.Create a paper lantern to talk about sleep promoters.

Make a Sleep Routine with Drew and Nia


About Healthy Sleep Habits

  • Sleep is vital for the body and brain
  • Sometimes students are surprised to learn that the brain doesn’t “shut off” for the night! Multiple parts of the brain are active during sleep, involving structures responsible for consolidating memories, controlling the transitions between sleep and wake, relaxing muscles, processing emotions, and more.
  • Circadian rhythms control your timing of sleep. It acts as the body’s biological clock and synchronizes with environmental cues (like light and the temperature) to make us sleepy at night and more awake in the morning
  • There are two basic types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM). Each is linked to specific patterns of brain activity, measures in waves. Everyone cycles through all stages of non-REM and REM sleep several times per night.
4 stages of sleep
The four stages of sleep. Illustrated JR Bee, Verywell
  • Researchers and scientists are still working to better understand the risks involved with being chronically sleep deprived and the relationship between sleep and disease, but studies suggest that people who are chronically sleep deprived are more likely to be overweight, have strokes and cardiovascular disease, infections, and certain types of cancer than those who get enough sleep.

Certain behaviors during the day and especially before bed can have a major effect on our quality of sleep at night. Talking with students about sleep routines and incorporating healthy practices into the classroom can make your students happier, healthier and ready to learn!

  • During the day, some activities that help support healthy sleep include:
    • Try to have the blinds open (if your educational space allows), especially first thing in the morning. If you don’t have windows, see if your organization might provide a light therapy box/sunlight lamp.
    • Incorporate daily exercise/activity into your educational practice. Among many benefits, the changes in the body’s energy use and temperature regulation promote healthy sleep.
    • Discuss the negative effects of caffeine on sleep.
  • Other actions that promote healthy sleep:
    • Setting up a schedule or routine – going to bed and waking up at the same time each day is a great way to help the brain and body get healthy sleep
    • Engaging in a relaxing activity before bed, such as warm bath, reading, or a relaxing routine
    • Create a comforting sleep space, as quiet and dark as possible (note that students may not have control over their sleeping arrangements – that is ok too! They can still incorporate lots of healthy practices into a bedtime routine, like reading with a stuffed animal or practicing mindfulness)

For more information about healthy sleep, see the NIH.

If you are looking for additional resources or know someone who is struggling with healthy sleep, please reach out to your school’s counselor/psychologist, or if you are in the District of Columbia area, the Children’s National Sleep Laboratory by calling 202-476-2128. In case of emergency, always call 911.

Sleep in Context: How to Support Students

Incorporate mindfulness practices into your space: short meditations, yoga, deep breathing exercises and reflection spaces are all easy ways to practice mindfulness during the day. You can also share some bedtime mindfulness activities students can do on their own. See this article for more information.

Make a diary to help students track their bedtime routines and how rested they feel. Then, look for trends and patterns. Here is a sample you could use.


Bernstein, R (2016)Hermann, N (1997)University of Michigan (2018); and Brain and Body Solutions