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For Students (And All of Us!) The First Priority Must Be Sleep

Versailles #1 2 16 2011 020In a Pentagon brainstorming session, Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum described her approach to life in one word: Prioritize.

You gotta love her method:

  • “A”
  • “B”
  • “C”
  • “Discard ‘C'”

(Martin Seligman’s wonderful book, Flourish, is full of these kinds of nuggets.)

Research keeps pouring out about the importance of sleep. Inadequate sleep is implicated in anxiety, depression, other emotional disorders, attention issues, unhealthy weight gain and poor cognition.

And sleep is essential to learning, because the material we learn during the day needs to be processed during sleep. All that studying is counter-productive if students are staying up too late to then “sleep on it” and let the information sink in.

This is the most hectic, fragmented, high-pressure time of the school year, and I know we all feel pulled in a million directions. But Mother Nature doesn’t care about all our ambitions; she still insists that the #1 Priority must be sleep.

Here are a few suggestions for making enough sleep happen:

  • Get homework done immediately upon arriving home. Don’t take a break first; just dive right in and plow through and save the break for evening.
  • Look for small bits of time during the day to get started on studying; even those two minutes before class begins can be used to begin reading an assignment, thinking about a paper topic, start a math problem (you need not finish it right then and there), etc.
  • No electronics in the bedroom. Keep them downstairs.
  • Set a bedtime that allows at least 8 hours of sleep (and really really really it ought to be 9+ hours for students), then reverse-engineer the day to make sleep the top priority. Some favorite activities simply will not fit into the daily schedule; save them for summer.
  • No glowing screens after 10 PM (or whatever is one hour before bedtime). The light from computers, TVs and smart phones disrupts sleep.
  • Review flash cards, vocab words, etc, before bed: You’ll wake up remembering them better!
  • Read something relaxing and/or boring in bed before you go to sleep.
  • Record your favorite shows and look forward to watching them this summer. DO NOT watch exciting TV shows right before bed!

Regards and pleasant dreams,

[photo of a ceiling in the palace at Versailles]

For Students (And All of Us!) The First Priority Must Be Sleep

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS is an educator, counselor, writer and speaker. She's been a tutor, test prep coach and home school teacher for over thirty years. Click HERE to visit Leigh's website and to subscribe to her newsletter, "Learning Something New."

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APA Reference
Cousins, L. (2013). For Students (And All of Us!) The First Priority Must Be Sleep. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 10, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Apr 2013
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