Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms
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National Center on Sleep Disorders Research

Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms

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Teacher's Guide

Lesson 5—Evaluate

Sleepiness and Driving: What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

At a Glance

Figure 5.1. Car crashed into tree Figure 5.1. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that each year, about 100,000 motor vehicle crashes result from drowsy driving.

Overview

In this lesson, students begin by identifying both good and bad sleep habits. Then they participate in a role-playing scenario about sleepiness and driving. Marcia Sinton, daughter of a friend of the governor, has been killed in a car crash in which the driver of the other car fell asleep while driving.

In response, the governor wants to incorporate questions about sleep and driving into the state’s driver’s license test. It is the governor’s belief that knowing about sleep and the consequences of poor sleep habits will produce safer drivers and fewer sleep-related car crashes. Students assume the role of sleep specialists who have been asked to come up with the sleep questions.

Major Concepts

Sleep loss has a number of negative impacts on society including loss of productivity, increased accident rates, and increased medical costs.

Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will

Teacher Background

Consult the following section in Information about Sleep:

  1. 3.10 Sleep loss and wakefulness

In Advance

Web-Based Activities
Activity Web Version?
1 No
Photocopies
Activity 1 Master 5.1, Good and Bad Sleep Habits (Make 1 copy per student.)
Master 5.2, Newspaper Articles (Make 1 copy per student.)
Master 5.3, Memo from the Governor (Make 1 copy per student.)
Master 1.2, Supplemental Information—What Do You Know (or Think You Know) about Sleep? (Make 1 copy per student, optional.)
Materials
Activity 1 flip-chart paper (1 piece per team)
markers (1 per team)

Preparation

No preparations needed (except for photocopying).

Procedure

Activity 1: Sleepiness and Driving—What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

  1. Introduce the lesson by asking the class to think about good and bad sleep habits. Give each student a copy of Master 5.1, Good and Bad Sleep Habits, and give them a few minutes to compile their lists.
  2. Ask the class for their list of good sleep habits and list them on the board. Then ask students to share the bad sleep habits they listed. Write those on the board (Figure 5.2).

For more information, refer to Table 5.1. It provides a list of some good sleep habits and can be used to supplement student responses.

Good Sleep Habits Bad Sleep Habits
Go to bed at a regular time Keep changing bedtimes
Use a comfortable bed Use an uncomfortable bed
Make sure bedroom is dark and quiet Sleep in a bedroom that is too light and/or noisy
Avoid meals right before bedtime Eat meals right before bedtime
Avoid nicotine and alcohol Use nicotine and alcohol
Get exercise Avoid exercise, or exercise right before bedtime

Figure 5.2. A typical list of good and bad sleep habits suggested by students.

Table 5.1. Good Sleep Habits: Getting a Good Night's Sleep

Both internal and external factors are important in determining the quality of our sleep. Advice for developing good sleep habits includes the following:

  1. Maintain the same sleep/wake cycle on both weekdays and weekends. This prevents our internal biological clock from being reset by altered bedtimes and wake times.
  2. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol inhibits REM sleep and disrupts sleep during the last part of the night. Alcohol does not promote good sleep and it can exacerbate existing sleep disorders, especially apnea.
  3. Avoid caffeine from midafternoon on. Caffeine is a stimulant that interferes with sleep onset and the rhythm of sleep. Caffeine may take up to 8 hours to be cleared from the body.
  4. Avoid nicotine. In addition to other health-related issues of smoking, nicotine is a stimulant, which produces changes in the body and brain that are not compatible with good sleep.
  5. Engage in exercise. Exercise during the day improves the quality of NREM sleep. However, exercise up to four hours prior to bedtime can interfere with sleep.
  6. Control your bedroom environment. Make your room and bed as comfortable as possible. At bedtime, keep your room as dark and quiet as possible. Keep the temperature on the cool side. A temperature of 65°F is recommended for good sleep.
  7. Avoid late evening meals, although a light snack (not too much) is okay. Foods such as milk, bananas, fish, and turkey, which contain the amino acid tryptophan, may have some benefit in promoting sleepiness.
  8. Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes each day. Daylight is important in regulating our circadian rhythm.
  9. Try to relax and leave the day’s problems behind. Unwind by reading or listening to the radio. Don’t watch the clock and worry about getting to sleep.
  10. If you believe you have a serious problem, there are sleep specialists who can help. Begin by talking with your physician.
  1. Ask the class if there are consequences to having bad sleep habits. Write responses on the board.

Students may respond that simply being tired during the day is a consequence of poor sleep habits. Ask if there are consequences to daytime (and nighttime) fatigue and sleepiness. Begin to focus the discussion on both consequences for the individual and for society.

National Science Education Standards icon
Content Standard F:
Hazards and the potential for accidents exist.

Content Standard A: Identify questions and concepts that guide scientific investigations.
  1. Give each student a copy of Master 5.2, Newspaper Articles, and ask them to read it. Explain that they will assume the role of sleep specialists engaged by the governor to help with an important project.
  1. Give each student a copy of Master 5.3, Memo from the Governor, and ask them to read it. You, the teacher, are the “committee chairperson” appointed by the governor.
  2. As chairperson of the governor’s special committee, instruct the students to each prepare a list of three questions about sleep as directed in the memo.

Students must also answer their questions and justify including those questions in the driver’s exam.

  1. Next, have the class form into teams of four or five students. Give each team one piece of flip-chart paper. Instruct each team to discuss the proposed questions and choose the top five (with answers and justification) that they believe should be included in the final list submitted to the governor. Have each group select a spokesperson to report their results to the class.
  2. After the teams complete their task, reconvene the class. Ask each spokesperson to post their questions (on the flip-chart paper) and explain their choices to the rest of the class.
  3. Engage the class in a discussion of the questions on the flip-chart paper with the goal of selecting the final list of 10 questions to submit to the governor.

If desired, you can have the students vote on each question. The 10 questions receiving the highest votes will be put on the final list.

assessment icon
Assessment:
Students should include, as part of their justification, facts about sleep that they have learned from the previous lessons in the module.
  1. To wrap up the lesson, ask students to critique the questions that made the final list.

Students should justify their responses.

  1. You may also engage the class in a discussion about whether or not driver’s license applicants need to know anything about sleep and the consequences of poor sleep habits. The following questions will help the discussion:

Most students will conclude that sleep knowledge is helpful to drivers. It allows them to connect sleep loss to auto crashes, to recognize when they are putting themselves (and others) at risk, and to avoid sleepy driving situations.

Those who agree with the law will justify their position by stressing the costs to society of sleepiness-related crashes. Those who oppose the law may defend their positions on the grounds that such knowledge will not prevent crashes or that sleep is being singled out as important to driving while other equally important issues are ignored.

Students may mention airline pilots, air traffic controllers, operators of various forms of public transportation, doctors, and certain military personnel, among others.

If students are interested and want to learn more about impacts of sleep loss on society, besides drowsy driving, help them do so. Make available to students relevant information from the Information about Sleep section and from Web sites listed in the Additional Web Resources for Teachers section.


Lesson 5 Organizer
Activity 1: Sleepiness and Driving—What You Don’t know Can Kill You
What the Teacher Does Procedure Reference
Give each student a copy of Master 5.1, Good and Bad Sleep Habits. Have students write their own lists of good and bad sleep habits. master iconStep 1
Summarize the class responses on the board. Step 2
Ask the class to suggest consequences of bad sleep habits and list them on the board. Step 3

Give to each student a copy of Master 5.2, Newspaper Articles, and Master 5.3, Memo from the Governor. Instruct the class to read them.

  • Explain that they will assume the role of sleep specialists hired by the governor to help with an important project.
master iconSteps 4 and 5
Instruct each student to prepare a list of three questions about sleep. Step 6

Divide the class into student teams and instruct each team to select their top five sleep questions.

  • Have each team select a spokesperson.
Step 7

Reconvene the class and have each spokesperson report their team’s list of questions.

  • Have teams post their lists in front of the class.
  • Have each spokesperson justify their team’s reasoning.
Step 8
Discuss the questions with the class and agree on a final set of 10 questions to give to the governor. Step 9

Ask the class to critique the final set of questions:

  • Do the questions cover basic sleep concepts?
  • Will knowledge of these concepts contribute to a better understanding of sleep and the consequences of poor sleep habits?
  • Will a better understanding of good sleep habits be gained?
Step 10

Discuss whether or not driver’s license applicants need to know anything about sleep and the consequences of poor sleep habits. Ask the class,

  • Is knowledge about sleep important for automobile drivers?
  • Should sleep knowledge be required for those seeking driver’s licenses?
  • Can you suggest other individuals who could benefit from knowledge about sleep?
Step 11
master icon= Involves copying a master.  

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