TAMARI RAMISHVILLI| STAFF WRITER
A study from the Journal of Adolescent Health that found that only 30 percent of college students sleep at least eight hours a night, the average requirement for the age group. While you may not think this is a big deal and that you can out run the best of them, consider the following:
Sleep is essential to overall health and well-being, and as college students, we are at high risk of suffering from lack of sleep that can hurt our health and our grades. Sleep has an important effect on our daily life and functioning, and also affects our physical and mental health in many ways; so, getting a good night’s rest is not something we should be skipping out on.
When we are rested, our minds and bodies can work to the best of their ability. When we don’t get enough sleep, everything that we do is affected, and we are not able to successfully do all the things that we normally do. It becomes very difficult to concentrate, study, work, or even socialize. A person suffering from lack of sleep is often irritable and unpleasant to be around. With sleep deficiency, we often feel drowsy, unmotivated, stressed, and sometimes even experience hallucinations and mood swings.
According to psychologist and sleep expert David F. Dinge, Ph.D. of the Division of Sleep Chrono-biology at the University of Pennsylvania, irritability, fatigue, and disinhibition are some of the many symptoms a person first experiences from lack of sleep. Dinges says that if a person fails to get sleep after these first signs appear, then more severe symptoms develop such as indifference, impaired memory, depression, and a habit of nodding off at undesirable places and times, which puts grades at risk and sometimes- lives. Did you know, up to four percent of all fatal car crashes are caused by someone falling asleep at the wheel. Doctors and scientists stress the importance of sleep, saying that while we sleep, used neurons repair themselves, so if we don’t sleep properly, the neurons start to malfunction.
When we do get a sufficient amount of sleep, we feel energized, alert, and ready for the day. We do better in class, since sleep aids the brain in acquiring new information and storing it, and we’re also less likely to fall asleep during the day and miss class. Sleep boosts memory through a process called memory consolidation which occurs during sleep. While your body is resting, your brain is hard at work processing information and making connections between the information such as events, memories, and feelings. Getting quality sleep will help you to better process new information, and to remember it.
An important fact to take into consideration as a busy college student is that sleep reduces stress. We’re prone to stress, which can often dominate and control our lives, making it difficult for us to function and focus on the things we have to do. When our body lacks sleep, it goes into a state of stress, increasing the production of stress hormones.
A good night’s rest also reduces the risk for depression, another area college students tend to fall victim to. Sleep affects the chemical production in our bodies, including the chemical serotonin. Lack of sleep increases the amount of stress hormone level in our bodies, and decreases the amount of serotonin. People who have a deficiency in serotonin are at a higher risk of experiencing depression.
Sleep also affects our metabolism and body weight. Chronic deprivation of sleep can result to significant weight gain, or weight loss, by changing the hormone levels that affect our appetites, and by disrupting the process of digestion and storing of carbohydrates.
In order to gain all the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep, there are a few things you have to do. One mistake students make is drinking caffeine, eating a heavy meal, exercising, or smoking near bedtime. All of these things will keep you up! Try to develop a regular, healthy bedtime routine and actually follow it, going to bed the around the same time each night. When picking a regular sleep schedule, make sure you pick an earlier bedtime that will ensure you a full night’s sleep. Also, pick a time to wake up in the morning, and try to wake up at that exact time every morning. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try minimizing the noise and light levels in your sleep area.
While getting sleep is important, getting too much sleep is also detrimental. An article on CNN, Is too much sleep making you tired? Explains that sleeping excessively will make you tired, disrupt your ability to make effective decisions, and have you feeling like ‘blah’ all day.
So, make sure you get the right amount of sleep, especially since we’re around the corner from finals. Take advantage of that extra hour of sleep daylight savings time has recently given us!