A Minnesota teacher who allows students to sleep during school has us wishing we were in his class.
Students enrolled in Mr. Isaac Harms’ psychology course at Murray County Central High School can sneak in a snooze as part of a unique sleep study lesson the teacher is known for on campus.
Harms, a 20-year educator, teaches social studies and also psychology, which juniors and seniors can take as an elective.
On Oct. 5, Harms shared a photo with his 11,000 Instagram followers of his class during their unit on sleep, where they learn about the four stages of sleep by engaging in actual sleep.
“Anytime we can experience information, I feel like it’s more memorable and it sticks,” Harms told “Good Morning America.” “When we go into the sleep [unit], we took notes, learned the stages and benefits of sleep … slowly moving into this altered state of consciousness.”
“They all get excited and say, “Seriously? We can sleep?'” Harms added. “It’s funny because my wife is a kindergarten teacher and kids hate nap time. High schoolers love it.”
During his lesson, Harms encourages the teens to find a comfortable spot in the classroom. He then reads them a 20-minute story and when it’s all over, the class discusses what happens to the body while you sleep.
“After some quick breathing instructions for relaxation, I tell a scripted story with a detailed outline,” Harms wrote on Instagram. “Once the story is complete, students begin to wake up from their altered state of consciousness and we walk through what they remember from the story while matching it to the stages of sleep.”
Harms said the students learn what stage of sleep their body entered based on what they can remember from the story he had read aloud.
Some of the students reported entering various stages of sleep or didn’t sleep at all. For those who enter later stages and remain asleep after Harms’ lesson, Harms kindly lets them sleep a few more minutes and they are gently woken up. They then document their observations and what they experienced chronologically during the story.
“We all thought it was really cool because high schoolers tend to be overtired, so, we got a bit of a nap time,” said senior Victoria Pierson, 17, who reported entering stage 1 of sleep during Harms’ class. “I honestly think he’s the best teacher we have. He’s very good about getting the message across rather than memorize or learn it for a test.”
Dr. Rafael Pelayo, sleep specialist at the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center, said Harms’ lesson is an effective method of teaching sleep studies.
“We’ve been having students fall asleep in our class and giving bonus points for many years,” Pelayo told “GMA.”
Pelayo, author of the upcoming self-help book “How to Sleep,” teaches the Sleep and Dreams course to undergraduate students at Stanford.
The course was originally taught by Pelayo’s former colleague and friend, William Dement, MD, PhD, who died in June. Dement worked with physiologist Nathaniel Kleitman and graduate student Eugene Aserinsky, and discovered rapid eye movement sleep — coining the term REM.
“You can never pull this off in a second-grade class, second-grade kids would never fall asleep,” Pelayo said of Harms’ lesson. “High school kids are sleep deprived. You can only sleep if you’re sleepy. That’s why what this teacher is doing works, because they’re no getting enough sleep.”
“This teacher has to be commended,” Pelayo added. “Even when sleepy, you can only fall asleep unless you’re comfortable and in a safe place. He’s known for it and the kids look forward to it. They trust him.”
Harms said he adopted his sleep lesson from his former teaching mentor. Since sharing the method on Instagram, other teachers have reached out saying they’d like to try it in their class, he said.