Do You Need More Sleep? by Muhibbah Khan
If you’re a fellow student like me, I’m sure you know the feeling of pulling multiple all-nighters and having to down cups of coffee to keep yourself functioning so you can complete your assignments, all while balancing multiple jobs, familial responsibilities, and maintaining a social life. The reality is, whether you’re a student or not, life can be overwhelming and we often tell ourselves that we’ll get rest once the task looming above our heads is over, but what does that actually mean for our bodies? What happens when we push through for days, barely getting any sleep, and then attempt to recharge our batteries once we get the chance? Although it may seem like depriving ourselves of sleep may be the only way to make time to accomplish the task at hand, believe me, the short-term and long-term side effects are not worth it.
So what happens when you deprive your body of proper sleep? For starters, you may start noticing a cognitive decline in terms of memory and performance. Memory can be broken down into three parts: acquisition, consolidation, and recall.
Acquisition refers to the introduction of new information into the brain, Consolidation represents the processes by which memory becomes stable. Recall refers to the ability to access the information (whether consciously or unconsciously) after it has been stored. (Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, 2007).
Lack of proper sleep will begin to impact your memory consolidation and as a result, you may find yourself becoming more forgetful. The information you may have previously learned in classes may be difficult to recall because it did not get a chance to become stable in your brain. Your focus and attention will begin to drift and you’ll notice an increase in irritability, mood alterations, and impaired judgment (Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, 2007). You may begin to notice a decline in your performance at school. In the long term, your chances of developing serious medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and mood disorders will increase, while your overall immune functioning will decline (Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, 2007). It’s safe to say that sleep deprivation should not be taken lightly even though it often is.
So how can you steer clear of sleep deprivation? Here are some simple tips from:
1. Sticking to the same sleep schedule every day, even on weekends.
2. Only use your bed for sleep. With everything being online it may seem desirable to stay in bed for your online classes, but it’s important to have a separate area to study so your brain associates your bedroom with sleep.
3. Weekend routine. Try not to sleep in on the weekend even though it may seem like the only time to catch up on sleep, doing so can actually mess with your circadian rhythm and through your entire sleep schedule off track.
4. Avoid/limit caffeine and alcohol
5. Schedule meals. Try to stay away from eating anything two hours before bedtime
6. Exercise. Try to create a consistent exercise schedule to promote healthy habits and boost your energy throughout the day.
7. Learn to say no. Remember that your mental and physical health is more important than any party or hangout. The fear of missing out may tempt you to push your limits, but remember to listen to your body and know that there will always be more times to socialize.
Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. (2007). Sleep and Disease Risk | Healthy Sleep.
Healthy Sleep. https://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk
Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. (2007b). Sleep, Learning, and Memory | Healthy Sleep. Healthy Sleep. https://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory
Heckman, W. (2019, October 15). Sleep Deprivation: Symptoms, Effects, Treatments, & Prevention (Infographic). The American Institute of Stress. https://www.stress.org/sleep-deprivation-symptoms-effects-treatments-prevention-infographic
Sleep Deprivation in College Students: How to Cope. (2021, May 20). University of the People. https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/sleep-deprivation-in-college-students-how-to-cope/