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Go ahead, hit the snooze button and sleep your way to better health

Courtesy of Pedro Ribeiro Simões

College students by nature are always on the go. It can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day between classes, work, homework and extracurricular activities. Demanding schedules sometimes require sacrifice, and unfortunately more and more students are sacrificing valuable sleep time in order to keep up. A lack of sleep can take a heavy toll on students, physically and mentally, and can severely affect mood, attention span and appetite. A full night’s sleep is essential for good health, so if you ever feel guilty about sleeping through your alarm, just remind yourself of all the benefits of a good night’s sleep.

Improved memory

When you’re sleep deprived, your focus and attention suffer because your brain hasn’t had adequate time to “recharge.” During waking hours your brain is constantly firing off neurons that help transmit information, but when those neurons are overworked, your brain won’t function to its necessary capacity to receive new information. You can also have difficulty remembering already learned information, which has a direct effect on academic performance. Getting a full night’s sleep revitalizes your brain and makes the process of learning and memorization much easier, which in turn makes for more effective learning.

Lower stress

Stress is a fact of life, but college comes equipped with its own special set of stressors. Sleep deprivation can magnify the pressures of academia and social lives, which can lead to all sorts of long-term health problems like tension headaches, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety. Instead of getting frazzled over your overload of academic and social commitments, save yourself from the despair of hectic college life and hit the sack earlier. Sleeping for at least eight hours a night revitalizes your nervous system and allows your muscles to relax, which in turn will help you wake up feeling refreshed and more energized. Also, people who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep are at a lower risk of developing high blood pressure, and tend to be in better cardiovascular health than people who don’t get a good night’s sleep regularly.

Avoid depression

Sleep is a necessary component of a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally. Sleep affects many chemicals in the human body, including serotonin, the chemical neurotransmitter produced in the brain that helps to regulate appetite, mood, memory and temperature regulation. Inconsistent sleep schedules can interrupt the production of serotonin, and depression has been directly linked to a lack of serotonin in the brain. Regularly sleeping for a full eight hours can assure regular serotonin production, which significantly lowers your risk of developing depression.

Strengthen your immune system

During the day, your body is exposed to all manners of harmful elements including germs, air pollution and ultraviolet rays. Sleep is a time for your body to restore itself and repair damage caused by those harmful exposures. Your body also produces more protein while you sleep, which aids in healthy cell function and can improve your body’s ability to fight off infection. A strong immune system is imperative to overall health, and consistent sleep patterns help to keep your immunity stable.

Increase weight loss

Healthy sleep habits have been linked to greater weight loss. The hormones that regulate appetite require balance to keep the body healthy, and a lack of sleep impacts the regulation of these hormones. Sleeping through the night on a regular basis helps to keep these hormones in equilibrium so that your appetite doesn’t go haywire. And since appetite regulation and weight loss are closely linked, a healthy sleep schedule can greatly improve weight management.

Sleep is a necessary element for overall health, and this is especially true for students. In the frenetic rush that is everyday college life, it can be difficult to get enough sleep, but in order to be happy, healthy and academically successful, it is imperative to get a good night’s sleep as often as possible. So go ahead, hit the snooze button a few more times. Your body and your brain will thank you.

Emily A. Brightman can be reached at ebrightman@umass.edu.

 

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