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  • Writer's pictureZoe Branigan-Pipe


“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” Irish Proverb

Around 350 B.C., Aristotle wrote an essay, “On Sleep and Sleeplessness,” wondering just what we were doing and why.

For the next 2,300 years, no one had a good answer.


What we do know is that our body needs sleep to be healthy. Sleep is as necessary to our health as good nutrition and exercise.  We know that sleep impacts our emotional health and behaviour and can influence our choices. 

As an educator, sleep has often been a topic of discussion. When my students (or my own kids) are not getting enough of it, learning is hampered. A good night's sleep, on the other hand, can support learning, information processing, decision-making, and problem-solving.

This is why I often ask, "How are you? How was your sleep?".  It is rather fun talking about dreams or sharing sleep strategies. One student shared a mindfulness technique that she uses to help her get between the first and second stages of sleep,

"I'm walking on a soft pine needle covered path in a brightly lit forest. I can sense the tingling feeling of the needless on the bottoms of my feet and through my toes.  I wiggle them. I feel the cool air on my skin. I stop and look up and see the sun beaming through the leaves and can hear the trees dancing, making that shhhhhhh.....sound  in the wind....I keep walking...

I do something similar and imagine myself running. I use run as a natural remedy for stress and anxiety, so this works well for me.

I lace up my shoes and step out in front of my house. I think of a familiar route and start slowly. I run to the end of the street and make a right. I notice the house on the corner is still for sale and the cat in the window. I cross the street and head down the zig-zag path toward the waterfront...

I usually drift off before I get to the second kilometre.

While not all were used in the order you see them, these slides were useful tools for engaging students in inquiry and discussion about sleep. Where did it lead?

  • Sleep and the impact on health

  • Sleep and our lifespan

  • How much sleep do we get in our lifetime?

  • What is Melatonin, and why do we need it?

  • What happens to us when we don't sleep?

  • What factors contribute to a good night's sleep?

  • Do income and demographics influence our sleep? Why?

  • How do poverty and hunger impact sleep?

Flexible Lesson Plan:

 The Science of Sleep for Various Age Groups


  • Understand the science of sleep and its impact on well-being and learning.

  • Explore specific sleep-related topics tailored to interest and age group.

  • Learn and apply strategies for improving sleep quality.

Grade Levels:

  • Grades 5-9 and Adult Learners

Materials Needed:

  • Age-appropriate educational resources (readings, videos)

  • Research tools (computers, tablets)

  • Creative materials for projects and presentations


  • Flexible: can be adapted for a single class period or expanded into a week-long project.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Considerations:

  • Provide content in various formats to cater to different learning styles.

  • Offer multiple ways for students to express their understanding.

  • Engage students with personalized topic choices and practical applications.

Lesson Overview:

Introduction to Sleep Science

Tailor the content complexity according to the age group.

Use engaging methods to introduce the basics of sleep and its importance.

Selecting Topics of Interest

Allow students to choose from a range of sleep-related topics, such as dreams, sleep disorders, the effect of nutrition on sleep, etc.

Research and Inquiry

Facilitate research activities, providing guidance and resources.

Encourage older students and adults to engage in in-depth exploration.

Discussion and Collaboration

Depending on the setting and time available, organize group discussions or individual exploration.

Adapt discussion depth and complexity to fit the audience.

Developing Sleep Strategies

Focus on practical strategies suitable for all ages.

Encourage students to relate these strategies to their chosen topic and personal experiences.

Presentation and Reflection (if time allows)

Allow for creative expression in presenting findings.

Include reflection on personal sleep habits and potential improvements.

Assessment and Feedback

Adapt assessment methods to fit the lesson's duration and depth.

Provide feedback that encourages ongoing learning and application.

Extension Activities (optional)

Suggest activities like a sleep diary for continued engagement with the topic.

Flexibility in Implementation:

  • The lesson can be compressed into a single class period focusing on the basics, or expanded into a detailed project over several days.

  • Adaptations can be made to suit the needs of different age groups and learning environments.

This flexible lesson plan allows educators to tailor the content and duration to fit their specific classroom context, ensuring that the essential topic of sleep and its relevance to health, well-being, and learning is effectively communicated and explored.

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