by Donna Lazarescu
According to the National Institute of Health, one out of three Americans get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night.
Sleep is a part of life and not only is it unavoidable but it is necessary to live. As students, we have the most difficult time getting adequate sleep in our busy and stressful schedules. Sometimes it is understandable that someone will have to pull an all-nighter. The problem is chronic sleeplessness, which means that a person is missing sleep night after night.
The National Institute of Health helps us understand that sleeplessness can cause a variety of health issues:
Weight gain: Lack of sleep can change regular body processes, with the metabolism not working properly as well as undesirable hormone changes. This happens because without sleep, the body keeps ghrelin, the hormone that makes an individual feel hungry, at a high level and leptin, the hormone that makes one feel full, at a low level. This will cause someone to have a high appetite, making them prone to overeating. Eating more calories than the body consumes will lead to overweight, which is a cause of low self-esteem.
Body repair and maintenance: Sleep can help the body grow, develop and heal any type of damaged cell/tissue. If one does not get adequate sleep, his or her immune system can get suppressed – and the body will be more susceptible to all types of ailments, which include not only a “regular sickness” but give someone higher chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases due to the body’s inability to fight off bacteria or viruses when they come in contact with it. Think of it this way: if you’re tired, your body’s killer cells are tired too, so they cannot do their job in fighting off intruders.
Cardiovascular health: chronic sleeplessness may contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes, high stress hormone levels and irregular heartbeat.
Mood: Lack of sleep can make a person impatient, easily angered and unable to concentrate. These mood changes can affect many aspects in life from social and professional relationships as well as negatively affected mental health. Sleep deficiency is a possible contributor to depression and suicide.
Productivity: Sleep is necessary for the brain to function well. Tired students will have trouble paying attention, learning and memorizing important things. Lack of sleep can affect problem solving, creativity and decision-making. Also, it can make it even more difficult to handle stress.
Did you know?
If you do not take the time to sleep enough, you can fall asleep multiple times throughout the day, while you are awake! This is called microsleep. Chances are, you have experienced it before. It will make you function like a robot, sitting in a lecture but not comprehending it or driving to a destination and not remembering your trip. Your body decides to sleep because it is tired. Microsleep is a dangerous occurrence that cannot be controlled.
1. Sleep your recommended hours. *Refer to diagram below*
2. Try to keep the same schedule on weekdays and weekends. If you want to sleep in extra, do not sleep in more than an hour. This can disrupt the body clock’s sleep-wake rhythm.
3. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. The body is comfortable when it can predict sleep times. After a while you may not even need an alarm clock!
4. For an easy time falling asleep, the hour before bedtime should be relaxing and quiet. Avoid any type of bright light, television or exercise.
5. Avoid caffeine or nicotine for 8 hours before bed. These stimulants keep the body awake. It is important to keep in mind that chocolate and soda as well as some teas have caffeine.
6. Take a hot bath or use meditation to relax before bed.
7. A short nap in the middle of the day is OK. If you need to nap throughout the day, you should not nap for more than 20 minutes (children should nap for longer amounts of time.)
The Health Buzz is a biweekly column on advice for student health by Donna Lazarescu. She has her B.S. in Health Science from CSUF and is the Health Director for the local nonprofit organization Mommy & Me Cancer Foundation.