Sleeping StudentI have a student who constantly is trying to sleep in class. I think it may be a depression issue, but his mom refuses to consider the possibility. I would appreciate any ideas on...

Sleeping Student

I have a student who constantly is trying to sleep in class. I think it may be a depression issue, but his mom refuses to consider the possibility. I would appreciate any ideas on keeping this kid awake and involved.

Expert Answers
jennifer-taubenheim eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am not too sure about the standing, even if it is only ten minutes, because it may be perceived as corporal punishment. It depends on your school. For example, at my school we are not even allowed to put a child who misbehaves in the hallway to wait for us. We also can not make them sit alone while the others work in groups.  You have to be very careful about these rules.  While the mom may not seem to care, she may be the first one up if she thinks her child is being treated unfairly. 

 

I can't believe they would consider it corporal punishment to not allow a child who is misbehaving to work in a group! Or make them wait in the hall? Wow. So what are you supposed to do if a kid is sleeping or misbehaving in your school? What the mom does not care about is how he does in school. I am sure she cares about how he is treated. However, we have a few more option in my school since I teach at an alternative school for kids with behavioral and emotional problems. The things that the regular school has tried did not work, so we have to get creative sometimes. The thing is, last year the kid slept constantly and did almost no work (he was in someone elses class last year). This year he was really improving, doing his work, even passing a few classes. He would always make comments about dropping out of school when he is 16, but I don't think he thought she would let him. Then she told him that she didn's care if he dropped out at 16, but he had to make it at least that far. As soon as she told him that, all of the progress stopped and he started sleeping again. I tried to talk with her about it and she told me that she does not feel that it is right for her to push him.

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I see from your profile that you teach middle school--that probably rules out a kid who is working a job till late hours. When I've had students at about the age of yours who are falling asleep, I usually find they are doing something their parents don't know about. You might want to ask some direct questions. If you know the student likes video games, computers, or talking on the cell phone, for example, you can start there.  And I have found the wording is important--not "Are you playing video games when you are supposed to be asleep?"--which will get an automatic denial-- but "How long do you play video games when you are supposed to be asleep?"  It is amazing how much more info you can get when a child assumes you already know something.

The other possibility, which you should unfortunately not rule out no matter how well you know the family, is that some form of abuse is taking place. Get input from other staff on this, and good luck--your student is fortunate to have a teacher who cares enough to worry  :)

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Sleeping Student

I have a student who constantly is trying to sleep in class. I think it may be a depression issue, but his mom refuses to consider the possibility. I would appreciate any ideas on keeping this kid awake and involved.

I have seldom used this technique, but in observing other teachers' classes, I've seen it work quite well. Tell the boy to stand. Don't let him lean on anything so he won't try sleeping while he's standing. Some of the coaches have the boys (all of the students at my school are boys) do push-ups if they're sleepy. I've never tried that approach!

I tried that once, and it did work. My school is on the block schedule, and 90 minutes is too long for some students to sit still, let alone stay awake in a class they might not be interested in. I will take a short stretch break just to get the blood flowing to the head again when I notice sleepy students.

engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here's my scenario and answer: I teach at a school that is specifically for those with learning differences and disabilities. The unspoken school policy is simply, "If a student is sleeping, let them sleep." The reason for this line of thinking is twofold: One, the student is sleeping as a result of not having enough sleep in the first place, or two, he/she could be having personal issues that are resulting in this passively problematic behavior.

I have had students who repeatedly sleep as a result of the medication that they are (or aren't) taking, and that serves as one potential explanation. If, however, as you stated, this problem becomes a repeat offense, I would have a talk with the appropriate person inside administration. Whether that is your school counselor, the dean of one department or another, or perhaps someone else, somebody needs to be alerted to the issue before it's too late for the student's grade to recover.

jennifer-taubenheim eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the last school where I worked, we were instructed to send a student to the nurse when they slept in class and did not want to wake up.  This was becasue they suspected the student might be under the influence of drugs or something of the sort.  Even if that isn't the case with this student, it could be that the nurse would be better equipped to pick up on physical symptoms and signs than you would be.  If you can, talk to the nurse in advance and ask her to call the student down during class, or watch for an email from you, etc.  If you give her a heads-up, she will know what to look for when the student comes into her office.

Not a bad idea, but there is no nurse at my school. I would not be surprised if he is taking something. But his mom would not really care. She already told him that he can drop out of school when he is 16 if he wants to, so he really does not care either.

jennifer-taubenheim eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I like using the technique of having the whole class slouch in their chairs and then lay their heads down on the desk.  Let them feel the sleepiness creep over them.  Then, have them experience the difference in sitting up straight correctly in their chairs with their chins slightly raised, breathing deeply.  These physical cues are what tells our bodies to rest or to focus.  The student may just need to know how to take control to get through the period.

What I like about your post is that it does not take for granted that the kids already have this awareness. I think this is key in PBS. We often assume that the kids know things that they may not, when a little direct instruction would really help them in many cases. I have done similar things when working with anger management issues. Sometimes they are unaware of the physical cues and how to manage those things.

jennifer-taubenheim eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Sleeping Student

I have a student who constantly is trying to sleep in class. I think it may be a depression issue, but his mom refuses to consider the possibility. I would appreciate any ideas on keeping this kid awake and involved.

I have seldom used this technique, but in observing other teachers' classes, I've seen it work quite well. Tell the boy to stand. Don't let him lean on anything so he won't try sleeping while he's standing. Some of the coaches have the boys (all of the students at my school are boys) do push-ups if they're sleepy. I've never tried that approach!

I like this one. I have taken away his desk so that he can't use it as a pillow, but I have not just had him stand. I am sure it is pretty tough to sleep standing up. Thanks for the idea. I will have to try it.

Michael Foster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My first guess is that this student is staying up late on school nights (if you get on Facebook and check the times of posts, you can see this is a common practice).  Also, he may be experiencing a growth spurt that is really dragging him down physically.  Teenagers  tend to have wide swings of energy, usually compounded by poor diet high in sugar and carbohydrates.

Obviously, this is nothing you can control, and it doesn't sound as though the parent is involved in the child's life.  Definitely talk to the school counselor.  If it's a home issue, it has to be addressed through the counselor's office, with your input.  If it's just a teenager being a teenager, you might consider sending him for short breaks to get a drink every once in a while. 

jessecreations eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the last school where I worked, we were instructed to send a student to the nurse when they slept in class and did not want to wake up.  This was becasue they suspected the student might be under the influence of drugs or something of the sort.  Even if that isn't the case with this student, it could be that the nurse would be better equipped to pick up on physical symptoms and signs than you would be.  If you can, talk to the nurse in advance and ask her to call the student down during class, or watch for an email from you, etc.  If you give her a heads-up, she will know what to look for when the student comes into her office.

cybil eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Sleeping Student

I have a student who constantly is trying to sleep in class. I think it may be a depression issue, but his mom refuses to consider the possibility. I would appreciate any ideas on keeping this kid awake and involved.

I have seldom used this technique, but in observing other teachers' classes, I've seen it work quite well. Tell the boy to stand. Don't let him lean on anything so he won't try sleeping while he's standing. Some of the coaches have the boys (all of the students at my school are boys) do push-ups if they're sleepy. I've never tried that approach!

alohaspirit eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well first of all you should talk with a counselor if there is no response from the parents.  If its chronic, then this student could have a condition that needs to be looked at right away.  Also talk with other teachers and see how that student is in other classes, if there is a pattern then you know its not just your class, something is unhealthy about this student.  By talking with other teachers and the counselor, also a school psychologist then you have a team that can meet with the parents and really come up with a plan.  Do not tackle this on your own.

tpisano eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am not too sure about the standing, even if it is only ten minutes, because it may be perceived as corporal punishment. It depends on your school. For example, at my school we are not even allowed to put a child who misbehaves in the hallway to wait for us. We also can not make them sit alone while the others work in groups.  You have to be very careful about these rules.  While the mom may not seem to care, she may be the first one up if she thinks her child is being treated unfairly. 

 

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Take the class outside or to another setting than the classroom...the commons area or the cafeteria if it's too cold outside.  I had a teacher who used to have us sing every now and then.  The song went like this:  I'm alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic!  I'm alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic!  I'm alive, alert, awake; I'm alive, alert, awake.  I'm alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic!  She also had us to stretches and jumping jacks to "get the blood flowing".   Just some ideas...

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would speak with the student again before going to administration.  If you can get no cooperation from the student, I would consult the guidance counselor or other appropriate administration for help.  It sounds like he is probably just staying up too late, but it could be a bigger medical issue.  This is always a possibility.

cybil eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oh, I wouldn't recommend making the student stand for the entire period, just every time he starts to nod off. Standing should help him wake up and become more alert. After a few minutes--no more than ten perhaps--he can return to his desk. If necessary, the procedure can be repeated throughout the period. : )

morrol eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One thing that helps is temperature. I sometimes leave a window open so that the classroom is cold. This is uncomfortable for everyone, but it makes it difficult for students to fall asleep. It also doesn't address the issue of depression. It might be worth a shot though.

arrellbelle | Student

That seems rather problematic. What makes you think that the child has any signs of depression? If I were you, I would confront the student after class and ask them why they were always sleeping. Also, just closely try to monitor his behavior, even ask around among other students, those who are close with the child, and ask them what he's like when he's outside of school and if there are any personal problems.

krcavnar | Student

Sleeping is a major issue at our school.  It may be due to comprehension issue, medication, lack of adequate rest, improper diet, sleep disorder, etc.  We have several students who take medication for behavioral disorders and so we have a policy of allowing the student to stand at the back of the classroom so long as he does not disturb the class.  I also allow my student to get a drink of water or splash his face with water to help wake up.  Most students who truly are trying to comply will take these measures. Some simply do not want to be at school and will do anything to get kicked out or just simply they "turn off". 

 I keep a weekly log on any student with behavior issues and I keep notes on their behaviors, specifically things that seem to work keeping them awake, etc.  Maybe you might try having lunch with the student one-on-one and establish a discussion as to why the student thinks he has this problem.  If you continue to have issues document every thing you have tried and seek assistance from the guidance counselor or your administration.

lsliger | Student

Since there are many causes and reasons that a student could be sleeping in class, it is very important to find the cause first.  This may take some time to investigate, if the student is not willing to talk about what is going on or if the student is not sure why he/she is sleepy.  Many of the answers I have read on this discussion are possible solutions and causes.  However, I wanted to provide you with another possible cause that few people may be aware of.  When I was a college student, there was a time period in which I felt so tired all of the time.  I would fall asleep very quickly anytime that I was sitting or lying down.  I would fall asleep watching television, studying, driving, in class, etc.  This became very serious an dangerous.  I went to the doctor.  She ran some tests, and discovered that I had a potassium deficiency.  The problem was fixed after six months of taking a prescribed dietary supplement and many blood tests.

It is always important to include others in dealing with a student who is consistently having issues with sleeping in class, due to the many possible causes.  Just make sure you enlist in the help of other teachers, administration, counselors, and parents when dealing with an issue such as this.

mmiller21 | Student

Keep this student by a open window, and constantly call on this student when you see him/her falling asleep. This is what I do, and if that doesnt work you can always issue a detention.

firecracker726 | Student

I had a student, a 6th grader, who was also falling asleep regularly in class.  The first thing I did was find out the cause.  I started by asking him why he thought it was so hard to stay awake but received an "I don't know" answer in response.  I then spoke to the guidance counselor who had some inside information on the family. It turned out that there was some pretty extreme living conditions and drug abuse that were keeping him awake.  Since I couldn't control what went on at home I decided to help him while he was in my class by allowing him to chew gum, provided by me, as a means to stay awake.  I know it sounds like a small thing but it helped him stay awake and complete some of his work.

altorfere | Student

Be careful about sending a student into the hallway.  When they are out of your sight, you can be accused of not providing proper supervision.  Also, that time counts as "missed instruction" and in my state, we must account for all such time.  If it becomes excessive, then we must explain ourselves to administration.  It may be better to have an exchange plan.  If you have a student acting up, he or she is sent to a partnering teacher who has a space in the classroom that is not disruptive to them, but allows a break with supervision.  You would have a space in your room as well.  Usually it is a desk or table right near the doorway.

kbw | Student

I like using the technique of having the whole class slouch in their chairs and then lay their heads down on the desk.  Let them feel the sleepiness creep over them.  Then, have them experience the difference in sitting up straight correctly in their chairs with their chins slightly raised, breathing deeply.  These physical cues are what tells our bodies to rest or to focus.  The student may just need to know how to take control to get through the period.

mauricemo | Student

This is a tricky issue in that it could be one or a combination of mild to serious issues. Mild meaning perhaps there is little supervision at home and maybe the student stays up too late. A severe issue would be an undiagnosed case of pediatric bipolar disorder. There is reason for concern in any case. I would consult with the school counselor and the principal and try to conduct a non confrontational interview with the student. Ask about home life and determine if there is structure in the home. Seek advice from counselor and principal based on findings. Document all formal conversations with the student and make sure that another school official is present.

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