B1 Listening – Sleepy in South Korea

What’s the value of sleep? In my opinion, the importance of sleep is priceless. It’s an essential activity that every single one of us needs to do daily to function properly. Imagine a situation in which you are so busy at work that you sacrifice your precious sleeping time. Would you give up sleep for work?

Work culture all over the world becomes more toxic every day. Many people believe that putting long hours into work will give them instant success and gratification. The results are usually quite different. BBC Learning English came out with an excellent podcast on the work culture and sleep sacrifice in South Korea, titled Sleepy in South Korea. Even though it talks about people living in South Korea, I’m sure this problem is universal, and many adult and business students will be able to relate to it.

At the end of the post, you can find the lesson plan and presentation needed to complete the lesson.

Guess how many hours of sleep an average -adult needs every night (7-9 hours), and discuss if students think that it’s enough. Compare the sleeping habits of students and whether they believe they get enough hours each night. Look at the list of the cities around the world and predict which five of them get the most and which ones get the least sleep a night. These cities include Bangkok, Beijing, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Islamabad, Manila, Mexico City, New Delhi and, of course, Seoul. According to Preply’s report The busiest cities in the world, the top three cities with the least amount of sleep are Berlin (6 hours), Manila (6.3 hours) and Seoul (6.4 hours). You can predict the reasons behind these results, but keep in mind that this information isn’t given in the podcast.


It’s time to listen to the podcast. Either assign it as homework and focus on discussion or do it as guided listening. If you choose the second option, ask students to predict the causes of sleeplessness (pressure, anxiety, stress) and two things that can be caused by sleeplessness (depression and suicide). Listen to the first part of the recording (1:33 – 2:03) and check the answers. I decided to skip the first minute of the recording as it is quite basic and doesn’t bring anything interesting to the class.

The next part starts by looking at an infamous picture of a woman sleeping on the office floor. I would lie if I said that it wasn’t the main reason this lesson plan exists. Look at it and analyse what students think is happening and whether they believe this picture is real or fake. It may be hard to believe, but it’s real and shows a woman sacrificing her personal life and health to meet Twitter’s deadlines. The best part of it is that…she got fired. Ask students if they would ever do this for their boss/company.

The Economic Times – Twitter manager sleeping on the office floor in order to meet tighter Musk’s deadlines.

Say that the average working time in South Korea is 52 hours per week (in 2021), according to the Korea Herald. Compare it with the working hours in students’ countries, and discuss the optimal working hours per week. You can also talk about an ideal working week.

Listen to the second part of the podcast (2:03 – 3:18) and discuss why the Korean worker was angry about the working situation. It’s also a good opportunity to go over new vocabulary, agitated and encroach.

Show a quote from the recording ‘Offering a cure for this sleeplessness has become big business’. Students work together and think of ways in which curing sleeplessness can generate money. Proceed by listening to the third part of the podcast (3:18 – 3:55) and check the answers. What do students think about the sleeplessness business ideas such as sleep clinics, sleep cafés, or sleeping medication? Are any of these solutions new to the students? How popular are sleeping pills in students’ countries?


It’s time to talk about sleeping medication and its side-effects. Look at the list of common undesirable effects and discuss which one is the most dangerous. If you it’s appropriate, talk about students’ experience with medication and side-effects. Maybe some of them have experience with taking sleeping pills. Once everyone is clear with new vocabulary, listen to the fourth part of the podcast (3:55 – 4:55) and tick the side-effects mentioned in the podcast (sleepwalking, changes in weight – by eating in the middle of the night). Ask what the podcast suggests in case the sleeping medication doesn’t work (meditation and less work).

Think if it’s possible to live without sleeping. Ask students to dig deep into their memory and think about the longest time they stayed awake. Share some anecdotes about the reasons why students didn’t sleep and how it made them feel. Look at a quiz question posed in the podcast about the man who set the world record for staying awake for the longest period. Was it 64 hours, 164 hours or 264 hours? Listen to the last part of the recording (4:55 – 5:25). Share your opinions about this record and whether it should even exist.

Finish with vocabulary revision from the recording. Students match the words from the podcast with their definitions (to switch off, agitated, encroach, side-effects, sleepwalking). The class ends by completing the gaps in questions with the previously mentioned vocabulary and discussing the answers.

Click the links below to get the presentation and the lesson plan about Sleepy in South Korea. If you are interested in adapting the presentation to your needs, head to Canva and get creative!

How many hours a week would you like to work? How many hours are too many hours?


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