Why You Need to Sleep

Who really has time to get enough sleep? Those crazy people who insist on going to bed at 10 p.m. every night? College graduates? People without kids? Rich people? Definitely not me, that’s for sure. Especially during the school semester, I’m lucky if I manage to get five hours of sleep per night, and for various of reasons, I know there are thousands that can say the same.

atlas34I’m sure we’ve all seen this type of chart on the internet before. This seems simple compared to what me and many college students I know have to do on a typical day. Let’s add in work, extra curriculars, relationships, free time to read a book or watch your favorite television show, travel time, and more and you’ve got a chart I couldn’t even make.

Last semester I was busier than I had ever been, working 30 hours a week, running a coed fraternity on campus and trying to get through school while attempting to have a social life. I found that I was too busy and skimping on things that I really didn’t want to skimp on, such as sleep.

How Sleep Deprivation Effects You

Sleeping is so important for your body to recharge.  Despite that the ideal amount of sleep seems to be disputed everywhere on the internet, my doctor told me I need at least eight hours every night at 21-years-old. When I was a teenager, she said to get more than that, about 8.5 to 9.5 hours a night.

According to the Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep deprivation causes serious problems in many of your bodily functions. It can make you irritable for no reason, unmotivated, anxious or even cause symptoms of depression. It can affect your performance by interfering with your concentration, coordination, ability to pay attention and stay focused, while making you constantly tired, restless and forgetful. Sleep deprivation can even affect your safety by reducing your vigilance, increasing your reaction times and making you more likely to make bad decisions.

Medically speaking, sleep deprivation has been linked to high blood pressure, heart attack, obesity and diabetes, the Academy of Sleep Medicine added. In fact, the link between lack of sleep and weight gain is very well-studied. The Guardian also reported on a study that showed constant lack of sleep disrupts hundreds of genes throughout your body that work to keep you healthy.

The Huffington Post sheds some light on the additional problems that teens face at a higher risk than adults that include mental health issues, behavioral and learning issues and substance abuse. Each missed hour of sleep raises a teens chance of feeling sad, hopeless and depressed.

How to Tell if You are Sleep Deprived

Right now, you may feel perfectly healthy. Many of the major health problems won’t show up until later down the road, and the less serious issues you could often just shrug off. According to Health Magazine, if you feel any of these, you probably need a few extra Zs every night:

  • You’re always hungry and/or craving especially fatty, sugary foods.
  • You’re gaining weight and you’re not sure why.
  • You’ve suddenly decided to become impulsive.
  • You have no memory.
  • You always look to someone else to make a decision because your indecisiveness is too much.
  • You’re clumsier than usual.
  • You’re as emotional as Cho Chang when she kisses Harry in Order of the Phoenix.
  • You’re sick more often than you’re not.
  • You’ve never needed glasses, but everything is suddenly blurry.
  • You’re skin isn’t looking too hot.
  • You can’t drive without the fear of falling asleep.

What You Should Do About It

Get more sleep! Obviously, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Even I, while suddenly realizing my lack of sleep may be the reason why I’m such a klutz or having sweet cravings, know how hard this is. I keep telling myself once I graduate, I’ll get some sleep. Even though I’m going into my last semester, six months seems a long way off to look forward to full nights of sleep. So, here are a few tips from The Huffington Post on getting in a couple extra hours:

  • Eating too much or too little before bed can disrupt your sleep. Caffeine and alcohol can also keep you up or wake you up later on.
  • If you have trouble falling asleep, you need to train your body when it’s bed time. Don’t spend any time in your bed except to sleep, and do the same things every night before going to sleep. It also helps to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Don’t nap during the day unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you have to, don’t nap for any longer than 90 minutes, which will take you through one REM cycle.
  • Limit screen time and other screen-related distractions before and in bed. Try not to watch too much television or surf the web right before your bed. Give your mind some time to wind down. Also, many (like me) sleep with their phones next to them to use as alarms or just because you can’t bear to be parted with it. I’m not judging, nor am I telling you to stop, because I couldn’t, but just let it sit there next to your pillow. Don’t check it during the night, don’t even think about it until it forces you to get up the next morning.
  • When you’re stressed or worried, your mind is going a hundred miles a minute while you’re body is trying to fall asleep. Problems can’t always be dealt with right away, so trying putting it to the back of your mind when you get into bed.
  • Getting yourself and your life more organized can also help you get more sleep. Learning to manage your time could open up some time during your day and possibly enable you to go to bed earlier.

There are lots of sleep studies and remedies out there, and you have to decide what works best for you and your schedule.  The important thing is that you can honestly say you get enough sleep more nights than you don’t.

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