Young adults are constantly told by parents, doctors and advisors about the importance of sleep and how it is essential to our health and performance in life. However, to many young people, sleep is the last item on the list of important activities. This notion is especially exaggerated in the age of technology. Why sleep when hours of entertainment – addicting entertainment at that – is merely a click away?
In particular, for college students, sleep is just a part of the daily routine, something that is rarely wanted until exhaustion kicks in when you don’t get enough of it. Lack of sleep poses no immediate or obvious negative consequences other than being tired, and that is the secret danger of it. You may be thinking that no problem can be solved by sleeping on it, and that action is required.
However, it turns out that sleep could be the best remedy to fix the issues in your life.
Other than sleeping well and staying healthy, like doctors advise, sleep is essential in fixing physical bodily issues. For instance, say the college food is, quite literally, weighing you down and a diet seems like a good addition to your daily lifestyle. Studies show that dieters can double the amount of weight lost in fat by simply getting good nights’ sleep.
A researcher at the University of Chicago conducted a study where a group of subjects was put on a certain diet for two weeks and slept eight-and-a-half hours per night. Three months later, they repeated the diet, but instead getting only six-and-a-half hours of sleep per night. The results showed that after two weeks of sleeping eight-and-a-half hours on average, the subjects lost 55 percent more weight in fat than when they slept only six-and-a-half per night.
Why is this so? Food craving and the metabolism are partially regulated by a hormone called ghrelin, which makes you hungry and lowers the amount of energy you use. Lack of sleep raises your ghrelin levels, therefore making you hungrier and causing you to use less energy than normal. Essentially, all the food you consume staying up late isn’t being put to good use.
Sleep is also needed to keep your organs in good working condition. People who sleep less than six hours a night are at a higher risk for heart attacks and strokes. When we sleep, our breathing and heart rate becomes slower. Also, our blood pressure drops and our muscles relax. Basically, our whole body slows down and gives our organs time to rest. The less sleep we get, the more time our body spends in its most active state without rest.
Lack of sleep also has many negative effects in the area of mental health. For instance, say you have to study for a big test in the morning. As you steal sleep time for more cramming time, you’re taking part in an act that will take away from your GPA. The brain cannot properly learn material in a state of tiredness. Aside from the fact that it’s impossible to learn when you’re putting all your effort into opening your eyes, there are important functions that go on during sleep to help you process information. Information is organized in our deepest levels of sleep so that we can more easily recall it later.
In a study published in the journal, “Learning and Memory”, 200 college students were taught to play a videogame that they hadn’t played before. The students learned the game in the morning and then had to play it 12 hours later. Students who got a good night’s sleep retained more skills and knowledge of the game then when they played it after the allotted time.
There are also more serious aspects of mental health that are impacted by lack of sleep. Along with daily stress, many people have mental disorders that range from attention disorders to anxiety disorders. Sleep problems can increase the behavioral difficulties that result from ADHD. Also, lack of sleep has been proven to increase anxiety and stress and can lead to exaggerated symptoms of anxiety disorders. In addition, lack of sleep can affect mood and ability to focus.
Overall, sleep is an essential part of being a healthy person. Although most people would rather stay late at the gym to burn some extra calories or pull an all-nighter to finish an essay, it’s imperative to realize how beneficial a good night’s sleep can be to solving our health issues and preparing for the future.
So shut off the light, close the laptop and go to bed.
Luke Dery is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at Ldery@student.umass.edu.