I recently came across this NPR Life Kit podcast episode about sleep, more specifically Revenge Bedtime Procrastination. I’m guilty of this, so I listened. There were helpful tips, but what really struck me was when they talked about how socio-economic factors create sleep disparities which can lead to more serious health disparities. I had never considered how a person’s socio-economics could affect their sleep and health, so it was eye-opening. It makes so much sense, and it made me wonder how many Mt. SAC students are impacted by this issue.

In reflecting about this topic and writing this post, I found that disparity is not the same as inequity. The general definitions are that disparity refers to a difference while inequity refers to an unfairness or injustice. This article, What is health inequity?, does a good job of explaining the differences and providing examples in a health context. Given these definitions and what we know about our Mt. SAC student population, I would say these sleep and health differences are indeed inequities because they are tied to socio-economic factors. And since people don’t learn in a vacuum, we must consider how these inequities are affecting our students’ learning and as a result contributing to achievement gaps.

There’s obviously not an easy solution to this issue, but I encourage you to check-in with your students about their sleep. Are they getting enough? If not, what is getting in the way? Are there any changes they can make to get better sleep? You might even want share this episode with them and discuss it.

Additionally, incorporating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into your course can help tired students to be successful in your course. But not only tired students will benefit. UDL is effective course design for ALL students hence the term “universal.” Some quick tips for UDL in your courses are 1) ensuring that your content is accessible, 2) reducing cognitive load by chunking information, 3) incorporating multimedia, i.e., using a combination of text, images, memes, videos, etc., and 4) planning interactive activities, like group discussions, group projects, and peer reviews. Some fun tools to compliment these strategies are Flip, Playposit, Pronto, and Studio.

Do you have any other ideas for how to address sleep inequities in your role as an instructor? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Are sleep inequities affecting your students’ learning?

  1. Great article Eva and thanks for directing us to that other article “What is health inequity?” I assign an activity in my nutrition course which asks students to reflect on their sleep since it does indeed affect nutrition habits and thus overall health. I may consider bringing that activity closer to the beginning of the course. Thanks again for another great article on FCLT News Bytes. 🙌

    1. Thank you, Sandra! I love your reflection activity! I would encourage you to also have your students reflect on how their sleep, nutrition, and overall health affects their learning too.

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