Do you provide counseling students that suffer from a sleep disorder?
Research on sleep indicates that:
- Around 25% of young children43 have sleeping problems or experience excessive daytime sleepiness.
- 57.8% of middle schoolers and 72.7% of high school students45 get less than the recommended amount of sleep for their age.
While us school-based counselors and school psychologists are not “Sleep Doctors”, per say, there are some things that we can do in our counseling sessions to support our students that report difficulty sleeping.
As I’m sure you know, sleep is soooooooooo important for our overall health, our daily functioning, and our ability to be alert during the day. I, personally, have gone through periods in my life where I have experienced sleep deprivation (a.k.a. 3 babies), poor sleep habits (a.k.a. graduate school), and insomnia (a.k.a. stress.) Luckily for myself, my issues with sleep are often brief periods in my life that have been generally situational.
But for children with possible anxiety or other mood disorders, poor sleep can become a compounding issue to their mental health status. Students that do not have good sleep habits or have a sleep disorder struggle with learning due to the poor attention and memory functioning that are found to be correlated with children who do not get enough sleep.
Here are some resources and activities that I use for either SEL Classroom Presentations or for small group and/or individual counseling students to teach and help give them the tools that they need to have better sleep.
Sleep Intake Questionnaire
This questionnaire is kind of like a sleep-focused intake questionnaire. It asks students about their personal sleep habits, such as bedtime routine and use of technology before bed. This information can them help guide your discussions and instruction related to sleep habits. They are kids. As their counselor, it is best to assume that information that feels common or obvious to you may not be taught in the homes of your students. So, use this tool to guide discussions, counseling lesson activities, and/or recommendations.
Sleep Presentation with BINGO Game
I created this Presentation with corresponding “BINGO” game to help students learn about the importance of sleep in a fun and interactive way. The presentation goes over topics that include how sleep affects the brain and learning, the stages of sleep, what dreams are, and 7 tips for improving sleep.
Of course, you can give the presentation without the BINGO game, but it won’t be as engaging…. possibly. If you do the presentation with BINGO, don’t forget to bring a few prizes or have the teacher offer class points for good behavior and winning BINGO!!!
Mindfulness Sleep-Focused Videos and Other Videos about Sleep
I love a good mindfulness video. You can have your students sit or lay down in your office if you have a few pillows or yoga mats and room of laying down. Mindfulness practice videos can be the easiest counseling sessions you can have that are very helpful for students. There are different topics for these videos, however. So, if sleep is your focus, finding videos that focus on sleep or reducing anxiety are best. Here are some that I like and use with my own counseling students:
Safe House Chill Pill for Calm: A guided visualization story
While it may not feel like good counseling, your students will not likely ever experience a mindfulness video on their own, so I give you permission to use mindfulness videos in your counseling sessions. Your office is a safe and calm place for your students. Their counseling time is the perfect opportunity for them to experience mindfulness meditation in that safe and calm environment. On a side note, after the meditation practice, I will email my students’ parents with the video and an explanation of when and why they may want to use it as a tool to help their child with improving his or her sleep.
Daily Sleep Journal
Finally, give some “homework” to your students to help them with their sleep issues with a sleep log or daily sleep journal. Have the student complete it by themselves, or with a parent’s help daily. Then have them bring it to their next weekly counseling session.