What do I do about sleeping in class?

I’m looking for suggestions of interventions for narcolepsy/sleeping.  The student has a diagnosis of narcolepsy and schizophrenia.    He sleeps constantly in class.  Gentle reminders to wake up will work momentarily and then student goes back to sleep.  Any ideas on what to do?

Narcolepsy is a legitimate disorder and can be difficult to deal with.  It is important to figure out the sleeping habits at home and find out if he is sleeping there.  If he is spending his nights playing video games then sleeps through school then his system is turned around and you need to do what is possible from a school setting to get that back on track.  Sometimes it is just as effective to set up a plan and goals directly with the student as it is to meet with parents.  It would be helpful to set goals with the student about bedtimes, awake time in class, and work accomplished.  Having a clear plan with incentives in place is key to getting the student to practice the techniques to stay awake.  That being said, there are a few practical techniques to deal directly with the problem.

  • Scheduled Power naps- 15-20 minute power naps can be very powerful in restoring energy and getting a student back on track.  If possible this should take place in a quiet dark location like the nurse’s office.  It is critical however that naps not exceed 20 minutes.    Contrary to logic more sleep does not equal more energy.  A 20-minute nap will leave you refreshed and energized, but a 40-minute nap will leave you groggy and unfocused.
  • Exercise- Nothing is better to restore energy that brisk exercise.  Using Brain Breaks as a whole class could get everyone a little more focused and on task.  When I had this issue with one of my former students, I would send them on a run to the fence and back.  I could see them easily from the window in my classroom.  On some of the tougher days, we had to do that about every 20 minutes.
  • Standing Desk-  An adult friend I have also had issues with Narcolepsy.  In meetings, he would often stand in the back of the room with a clipboard for notes.  He also had a standing desk in his office.  It was not necessary to stand all of the time, but when he was feeling drowsy standing up made it possible to stay awake.
  • Yoga Ball-  Sitting on a Yoga Ball would have a similar effect on the standing desk, but be cautious because if he falls asleep on the ball it could result in an injury.