Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms
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National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Center on Sleep Disorders Research

Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms

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Teacher's Guide

Implementing the Module

The six lessons in this module are designed to be taught in sequence for one to two weeks in high school biology. This section offers general suggestions about using these materials in the classroom; you will find specific suggestions in the procedures provided for each lesson.

What Are the Goals of the Module?

Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms is designed to help students develop these major goals associated with scientific literacy:

What Are the Science Concepts and How Are They Connected?

We designed the lessons in this module to move students from what they already know, or think they know, about sleep toward an understanding of the scientific bases of sleep and its importance. Students begin learning about sleep by investigating their own sleep habits and collecting data that reflect the rhythmic nature of sleepiness (Sleep Diary). Students then explore biological aspects of sleep, how sleep is related to health and well-being (What Is Sleep?), and how scientists define the active, dynamic nature of sleep (Houston, We Have a Problem). An investigation of environmental influences (Do You Have Rhythm?) allows students to consider their own sleep patterns in the context of internal and external cues. Evaluating Sleep Disorders gives students a chance to use information they’ve learned from the previous lessons in the context of diagnosing and treating various sleep disorders. The final lesson, Sleepiness and Driving: What You Don’t Know Can Kill You, examines the impact of sleep loss on society, focusing on drowsy driving, an issue of interest and major importance to teenagers. The following two tables illustrate the science content and conceptual flow of the classroom lessons.

Science Content and the Lessons
Lesson Science Content
Pre-lesson Biological rhythms
Lesson 1 Biology of sleep; relationship to health
Lesson 2 Dynamic nature of sleep; sleep states
Lesson 3 Biological clocks
Lesson 4 Sleep hygiene and sleep disorders
Lesson 5 Sleep loss and consequences
Conceptual Flow of the Lessons
Lesson Learning Focus Major Concept
Pre-lesson Activity Sleep Diary Engage* Sleep/wake cycles vary among individuals, and daily sleepiness occurs in a rhythmic pattern.
Lesson 1 What Is Sleep? Engage Sleep is an essential, biologically motivated behavior. Adequate amounts of sleep are necessary for normal motor and cognitive function. Sleep is required for survival, and the drive to sleep is intense.
Lesson 2 Houston, We Have a Problem Explore Sleep is divided into two major states: NREM and REM. Bodily systems function in characteristic ways during wakefulness, NREM sleep, and REM sleep. Evaluating these bodily functions provides a means of determining an individual’s state of wakefulness or sleep.
Lesson 3 Do You Have Rhythm? Explore/Explain Humans, and many other animals, have an internal biological clock. This clock operates on a cycle of just over 24 hours. Environmental cues, especially light, serve to reset the clock, keeping it in time with the day/night cycles. The clock directs the rhythmic secretion of hormones, such as melatonin, that influence our sleep cycle. If the biological clock gets out of phase with the environment, various types of sleep problems can result.
Lesson 4 Evaluating Sleep Disorders Elaborate Many factors affect the quality and quantity of sleep. Poor sleep hygiene and/or biological factors can lead to a variety of sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy, apnea, and restless legs syndrome. Treatments exist for most sleep disorders.
Lesson 5 Sleepiness and Driving: What You Don’t Know Can Kill You Evaluate Sleep loss has a number of negative impacts on society, including loss of productivity, increased accident rates, increased vehicle crashes, and medical consequences.
*See How Does the 5E Instructional Model Promote Active, Collaborative, Inquiry-Based Learning?

National Science Education Standards iconHow Does the Module Correlate to the National Science Education Standards?

Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms supports you in your efforts to provide science education in the spirit of the National Research Council’s 1996 National Science Education Standards (NSES). The content of the module is explicitly standards based: each time a lesson addresses a standard, an icon appears in the margin to identify the applicable standard. The following chart lists the specific content standards that this module addresses.

Content Standards: Grades 9–12
Standard A: As a result of activities in grades 9–12, all students should develop Correlation to Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms
Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry  
  • Identify questions and concepts that guide scientific investigations.
Pre-lesson, Lessons 1, 3
  • Design and conduct a scientific investigation.
Pre-lesson, Lessons 1, 3
  • Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications.
Pre-lesson, Lessons 1, 2, 3
  • Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence.
Lessons 1, 3, 4
  • Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and models.
Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Communicate and defend a scientific argument.
All Lessons
Understandings about scientific inquiry  
  • Scientists usually inquire about how physical, living, or designed systems function.
All Lessons
  • Scientists conduct investigations for a wide variety of reasons, such as to discover new aspects of the natural world, to explain observed phenomenon, or to test conclusions of prior investigations or predictions of current theories.
Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Scientists rely on technology to enhance gathering and manipulating data.
Lessons 1, 2, 3
  • Mathematics is essential in all aspects of scientific inquiry.
Pre-lesson, Lessons 1, 3
  • Scientific explanations must adhere to criteria.
Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Results of scientific inquiry—new knowledge and methods—emerge from different types of investigations and public communication among scientists.
Pre-lesson, Lessons 1, 5
Standard C: As a result of their activities in grades 9–12, all students should develop understanding of Correlation to Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms
The cell  
  • Cell functions are regulated. Regulation occurs both through changes in the activity of the functions performed by proteins and through the selective expression of individual genes. This regulation allows cells to respond to their environment and to control and coordinate cell growth and division.
Lesson 3
The behavior of organisms  
  • Organisms have behavioral responses to internal changes and to external stimuli. Responses to external stimuli can result from interactions with an organism’s own species and others, as well as environmental changes. These responses are either innate or learned.
All Lessons
Standard F: As a result of their activities in grades 9–12, all students should develop understanding of Correlation to Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms
Personal and community health  
  • Personal choice concerning fitness and health involves multiple factors. Personal goals, peer and social pressures, ethnic and religious beliefs, and understanding of biological consequences can all influence decisions about health practices.
All Lessons
  • An individual’s mood and behavior may be modified by substances. The modification may be beneficial or detrimental depending on the motives, type of substance, duration of use, pattern of use, level of influence, and short- and long-term effects. Students should understand that drugs can result in physical dependence and can increase the risk of injury, accidents, and death.
Pre-lesson, Lessons 1, 4, 5
Standard G: As a result of activities in grades 9–12, all students should develop understanding of Correlation to Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms
Science as a human endeavor  
  • Individuals and teams have contributed and will continue to contribute to the scientific enterprise.
Lesson 3, 5
  • Scientists have ethical traditions that value peer review, truthful reporting about methods and investigations, and making public the results of work.
Lesson 1, 3, 5
  • Scientists are influenced by societal, cultural, and personal beliefs. Science is a part of society.
Lesson 5
The nature of scientific knowledge  
  • Science distinguishes itself from other ways of knowing and from other bodies of knowledge through the use of empirical standards, logical arguments, and skepticism.
All Lessons
  • Scientific explanations must meet certain criteria such as consistency and accuracy.
Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4
  • All scientific knowledge is subject to change as new evidence becomes available.
Lessons 1, 3, 4

Teaching Standards

The suggested teaching strategies in all the lessons support you as you work to meet the teaching standards outlined in the National Science Education Standards. The module helps you plan an inquiry-based science program by providing short-term objectives for students. It also includes planning tools such as the Conceptual Flow of the Lessons chart and the Suggested Timeline for teaching the module. You can use this module to update your curriculum in response to your students’ interest in this topic. The focus on active, collaborative, and inquiry-based learning in the lessons helps you support the development of student understanding and nurture a community of science learners.

The structure of the lessons in this module enables you to guide and facilitate learning. All the activities encourage and support student inquiry, promote discourse among students, and challenge students to accept and share responsibility for their learning. The use of the 5E Instructional Model, combined with active, collaborative learning, allows you to respond effectively to the diversity of student backgrounds and learning styles. The module is fully annotated, with suggestions for how you can encourage and model the skills of scientific inquiry, as well as the curiosity, openness to new ideas and data, and skepticism that characterize science.

Assessment Standards

You can engage in ongoing assessment of your teaching and of student learning by using the variety of assessment components embedded within the module’s structure. The assessment tasks are authentic: they are similar in form to tasks in which students will engage in their lives outside the classroom or in which scientists participate. Annotations guide you to these opportunities for assessment and provide answers to questions that can help you analyze student feedback.

How Does the 5E Instructional Model Promote Active, Collaborative, Inquiry-Based Learning?

Because learning does not occur through a process of passive absorption, the lessons in this module promote active learning: students are involved in more than listening and reading. They are developing skills, analyzing and evaluating evidence, experiencing and discussing, and talking to their peers about their own understanding. Students work collaboratively with others to solve problems and plan investigations. Many students find that they learn better when they work with others in a collaborative environment than they do when they work alone in a competitive environment. When all this active, collaborative learning is directed toward inquiry science, students succeed in making their own discoveries. They ask questions, observe, analyze, explain, draw conclusions, and ask new questions. These inquiry-based experiences include both those that involve students in direct experimentation and those in which students develop explanations through critical and logical thinking.

This view of students as active thinkers who construct their own understanding out of interactions with phenomena, the environment, and other individuals is based on the theory of constructivism. A constructivist view of learning recognizes that students need time to

This module provides a built-in structure for creating a constructivist classroom: the 5E Instructional Model. This model sequences the learning experiences so that students can construct their understanding of a concept over time. The model takes students through five phases of learning that are easily described using five words that begin with the letter “E”: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. The following paragraphs illustrate how the 5Es are implemented across the lessons in this module.


Students come to learning situations with prior knowledge. This knowledge may or may not be congruent with the concepts presented in this module. Engage lessons provide the opportunity for you to find out what students already know or think they know about the topic and concepts to be developed.

The two Engage lessons in this module, Pre-lesson, Sleep Diary, and Lesson 1, What Is Sleep?, are designed to


In the Explore phase of the module, Lesson 2, Houston, We Have a Problem, and Lesson 3, Do You Have Rhythm?, students investigate the major stages of sleep and the physiological changes that occur during sleep as compared to wakefulness. This phase requires students to make observations, evaluate and interpret data, and draw conclusions. Students


The Explain lesson provides opportunities for students to connect their previous experiences and to begin making conceptual sense of the main ideas of the module. This phase also allows for the introduction of formal language, scientific terms, and content information that might make students’ previous experiences easier to describe and explain.

In the Explain lesson in this module, Lesson 3, Do You Have Rhythm?, students


In Elaborate lessons, students apply or extend the concepts to new situations and relate their previous experiences to new ones.

In the Elaborate lesson in this module, Lesson 4, Evaluating Sleep Disorders, students make conceptual connections between new and former experiences. They draw upon their knowledge about sleep to evaluate data and diagnose fictitious individuals who are experiencing sleep problems. In this lesson, students


The Evaluate lesson is the final stage of the instructional model, but it only provides a “snapshot” of what the students understand and how far they have come from where they began. In reality, the evaluation of students’ conceptual understanding and ability to use skills begins with the Engage lesson and continues throughout each stage of the model. However, combined with the students’ written work and performance of tasks throughout the module, the Evaluate lesson can serve as a summative assessment of what students know and can do.

The Evaluate lesson in this module, Lesson 5, Sleepiness and Driving: What You Don’t Know Can Kill You, provides an opportunity for students to

To review the relationship of the 5E Instructional Model to the concepts presented in the module, see the chart Conceptual Flow of the Lessons.

When you use the 5E Instructional Model, you engage in practices that are nontraditional. In response, students also participate in their learning in ways that are different from those seen in a traditional classroom. The charts What the Teacher Does and What the Students Do outline these differences.

How Does the Module Support Ongoing Assessment?

Because teachers will use this module in many ways and at a variety of points in their curriculum, the most appropriate mechanism for assessing student learning occurs informally throughout the lessons, rather than something that happens more formally just once at the end of the module. Accordingly, specific assessment components are integrated into the lessons. These “embedded” assessment opportunities include one or more of the following strategies:

These strategies allow you to assess a variety of aspects of the learning process, such as students’ prior knowledge and current understanding, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, level of understanding, communication skills, and ability to synthesize ideas and apply their understanding to a new situation.

assessment iconAn assessment icon and an annotation that describes the aspect of learning that you can assess appear in the margin beside the step in which each embedded assessment occurs.

How Can Controversial Topics Be Handled in the Classroom?

Teachers sometimes feel that the discussion of values is inappropriate in the science classroom or that it detracts from the learning of “real” science. The lessons in this module, however, are based upon the conviction that there is much to be gained by involving students in analyzing issues of science, technology, and society. Society expects all citizens to participate in the democratic process, and our educational system must provide opportunities for students to learn to deal with contentious issues with civility, objectivity, and fairness. Likewise, students need to learn that science intersects with life in many ways.

In this module, students have a variety of opportunities to discuss, interpret, and evaluate basic science and health issues, some in the light of values and ethics. As students encounter issues about which they feel strongly, some discussions might become controversial. How much controversy develops will depend on many factors, such as how similar the students are with respect to socioeconomic status, perspectives, value systems, and religious preferences. In addition, the language and attitude of the teacher factor into the flow of ideas and the quality of exchange among the students.

What the Teacher Does
Stage That is consistent with the 5E Instructional Model That is inconsistent with the 5E Instructional Model
  • Piques students’ curiosity and generates interest
  • Determines students’ current understanding (prior knowledge) of a concept or idea
  • Invites students to express what they think
  • Invites students to raise their own questions
  • Introduces vocabulary
  • Explains concepts
  • Provides definitions and answers
  • Provides closure
  • Discourages students’ ideas and questions
  • Encourages student-to-student interaction
  • Observes and listens to the students as they interact
  • Asks probing questions to help students make sense of their experiences
  • Provides time for students to puzzle through problems
  • Provides answers
  • Proceeds too rapidly for students to make sense of their experiences
  • Provides closure
  • Tells students that they are wrong
  • Gives information and facts that solve the problem
  • Leads students step-by-step to a solution
  • Encourages students to use their common experiences and data from the Engage and Explore lessons to develop explanations
  • Asks questions that help students express understanding and explanations
  • Requests justification (evidence) for students’ explanations
  • Provides time for students to compare their ideas with those of others and perhaps to revise their thinking
  • Introduces terminology and alternative explanations after students express their ideas
  • Neglects to solicit students’ explanations
  • Ignores data and information students gathered from previous lessons
  • Dismisses students’ ideas
  • Accepts explanations that are not supported by evidence
  • Introduces unrelated concepts or skills
  • Focuses students’ attention on conceptual connections between new and former experiences
  • Encourages students to use what they have learned to explain a new event or idea
  • Reinforces students’ use of scientific terms and descriptions previously introduced
  • Asks questions that help students draw reasonable conclusions from evidence and data
  • Neglects to help students connect new and former experiences
  • Provides definitive answers
  • Tells students that they are wrong
  • Leads students step-by-step to a solution
  • Observes and records as students demonstrate their understanding of concept(s) and performance of skills
  • Provides time for students to compare their ideas with those of others and perhaps to revise their thinking
  • Interviews students as a means of assessing their developing understanding
  • Encourages students to assess their own progress
  • Tests vocabulary words, terms, and isolated facts
  • Introduces new ideas or concepts
  • Creates ambiguity
  • Promotes open-ended discussion unrelated to the concept or skill
What the Students Do
Stage That is consistent with the 5E Instructional Model That is inconsistent with the 5E Instructional Model
  • Become interested in and curious about the concept/topic
  • Express current understanding of a concept or idea
  • Raise questions such as, What do I already know about this? What do I want to know about this? How could I find out?
  • Ask for the “right” answer
  • Offer the “right” answer
  • Insist on answers or explanations
  • Seek closure
  • “Mess around” with materials and ideas
  • Conduct investigations in which they observe, describe, and record data
  • Try different ways to solve a problem or answer a question
  • Acquire a common set of experiences so they can compare results and ideas
  • Compare their ideas with those of others
  • Let others do the thinking and exploring (passive involvement)
  • Work quietly with little or no interaction with others (only appropriate when exploring ideas or feelings)
  • Stop with one solution
  • Demand or seek closure
  • Explain concepts and ideas in their own words
  • Base their explanations on evidence acquired during previous investigations
  • Record their ideas and current understanding
  • Reflect on and perhaps revise their ideas
  • Express their ideas using appropriate scientific language
  • Compare their ideas with what scientists know and understand
  • Propose explanations from “thin air” with no relationship to previous experiences
  • Bring up irrelevant experiences and examples
  • Accept explanations without justification
  • Ignore or dismiss other plausible explanations
  • Propose explanations without evidence to support their ideas
  • Make conceptual connections between new and former experiences
  • Use what they have learned to explain a new object, event, organism, or idea
  • Use scientific terms and descriptions
  • Draw reasonable conclusions from evidence and data
  • Communicate their understanding to others
  • Demonstrate what they understand about the concept(s) and how well they can implement a skill
  • Ignore previous information or evidence
  • Draw conclusions from “thin air”
  • Use terminology inappropriately and without understanding
  • Compare their current thinking with that of others and perhaps revise their ideas
  • Assess their own progress by comparing their current understanding with their prior knowledge
  • Ask new questions that take them deeper into a concept or topic area
  • Disregard evidence or previously accepted explanations in drawing conclusions
  • Offer only yes-or-no answers or memorized definitions or explanations as answers
  • Fail to express satisfactory explanations in their own words
  • Introduce new, irrelevant topics

The following guidelines may help you facilitate discussions that balance factual information with feelings.

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