Behold, the Power of SleepPosted: September 14, 2010
The princess’s fate was miserable: Aurora would prick her finger on a spindle and be cursed to sleep for a hundred years. The king and queen cried, dreading the impending curse looming in the future of their beautiful baby girl.
For many college students, the evil fairy’s curse in Sleeping Beauty looks like more of a blessing. Between classes, studying, working and — most importantly –, socializing, college students sleep less than any other demographic. To the busy scholar, sleep is an elusive treasure, truly the stuff of fairy tales. A mere 11 percent of college students report getting quality sleep at night. While the recommended amount of sleep is about eight hours per night, college students sleep about six hours a night on average, and many students sleep less than that. It’s just two hours, right? Wrong.
Chapter 4 of Taking Charge: Your Education, Your Career, Your Life lists sleep as one of the most important tools to maintain good health during college years. In fact, sleep deprivation can lead to a host of mental and physical health problems. It actually will kill you faster than starvation will. Sleep torture, the act of keeping prisoners awake for extended periods of time, was used during World War II by the United States, the Russian KGB and the Chinese. By robbing ourselves of the proper amount of sleep we are, literally, torturing ourselves.
Why? Busy, busy bees. College students are doing a lot. College etiquette requires students attend parties, and parental regulations require students attend classes. Go figure. Our culture also glorifies being overly involved. It’s like the busier a person is, the more that person contributes to society. This concept extends to campuses across the nation, as students are involved in clubs, Greek organizations, honor societies, councils, all in addition to keeping up with classes, homework and studying and maintaining a part-time (or full time) job. To be a good, productive member of the college community, one must be busy, busy, busy. Consequently, this person is also sleepy, sleepy, sleepy.
So what? There are short-term and long-term consequences to those all-nighters, those late-night parties. While studying and socializing are quintessential components of the college experience, sleeping is a vital element for healthy living. Depression is one of the most prevalent penalties wrought by sleepless nights on college campuses. Depression affects college students twice as much as the general population and can lead to anxiety disorders, agitation, eating disorders, and suicide. While college can be overwhelming in itself, adding mental/emotional disease makes succeeding exponentially more difficult. The rest and relaxation gained while sleeping can alleviate some of the intense stress college kids encounter.
The facts surrounding sleep deprivation in college students reveal an interesting truism: There’s a little more to the freshman fifteen (gaining those pounds the first year) than just overeating. Inadequate sleep influences weight gain significantly. The body’s levels of food-regulating hormones are disturbed when a person is not sleeping enough. Grehlin, the chemical your body produces to make you feel full, is suppressed and the result is a desire to eat more but feel less satisfaction. The result: weight gain, despite diet and exercise. Health wise, some cases of diabetes and obesity can be directly related to the individual’s lack of sleep. Want to keep your girlish figure? Curl up with your pillow and go to sleep!
Lack of precious slumber also denies the brain a chance to relax, thus students are more edgy and can’t concentrate. Think of it as sleep deprivation induced ADD. Performance in school suffers, as well as productivity at work. While all-night cramming sessions are okay if occasional, they do more harm than good. Rest allows your body to recharge itself, to reboot its immune system. Instances of illness and infection spike when sufficient sleep is not exercised.
In short, go to sleep! Put down the textbook and pick up your pillow. Leave the party and climb into bed. Sleep is not simply a suggestion, nor merely an activity at the end of the day — it is an essential ingredient in healthy living!