Sleeping Towards Success

Do you get enough sleep?

As a college student, it may sometimes be extremely difficult to balance academics and extracurriculars with proper self-care on a daily basis. In the midst of midterms or finals season, sleep can be one of those things that students often neglect. In fact, sleepiness, specifically daytime sleepiness, is a common problem that occurs among most college students. According to an article in Nature and Science of Sleep, 50% of the surveyed population of college students reported symptoms of daytime sleepiness, and 70% of students reported instances of insufficient sleep, illustrating an extremely high number of college students who do not receive enough sleep on a regular basis. Although academics and college experiences are important, sleep, too, is equally as essential. Inadequate sleep may negatively impact one’s physical and mental health, adversely affecting grades, relationships, and mood.

Sleep is crucial to our physical health. Did you know that sleep plays a huge role in our diet routine? Adequate sleep maintains a balance of ghrelin and leptin hormones, which strongly affect our appetite. When we lack sleep, our leptin hormones, which function to suppress our appetite, decreases while our ghrelin hormones, which stimulate our appetite, increase. A study has shown that “[after] six days of bedtime restriction to four hours a night, the plasma concentration of leptin was markedly decreased, particularly during the nighttime. The magnitude of this decrease was comparable to that occurring after three days of restricting caloric intake by approximately 900 kcal/day.” As evident, lacking proper amounts of sleep may stimulate a stronger appetite, directly increasing calorie consumption.

Similarly, insufficient sleep may result in increased risk of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Diabetes is especially prevalent among adults with less sleep because glucose regulation in the body is off-balance as the body processes glucose at a slower speed than usual. The Mayo Clinic suggests that those with less than five hours of sleep are at higher risk of high blood pressure due to a decline in the regulation of stress hormones in the body. In contrast, enough sleep results in better regulation of the immune system, serving as an easy method to prevent common sicknesses like flu and colds.

Just as sleep can impact physical health, maintaining good sleep schedules can result in better mental health, which also benefits our academics and relationships with others. Deficiency in sleep may inflict feelings of drowsiness, irritation, negative emotions, and bad decision-making skills, which may adversely affect our relationships with loved ones. It can also increase stress and impair our ability to retain information, resulting in short-term memory loss.

However, good sleeping habits lead to improved concentration and productivity with better study habits and more energy for class. As mentioned earlier, loss of sleep can result in weight gain and fatigue, which is correlated to negative mental health outcomes as they can increase feelings of insecurities and negative self-images. Furthermore, symptoms of major depressions and suicidal behaviors have also been linked to bad sleeping habits.

What are some tips in improving sleeping habits? First, create a sleep schedule. The National Sleep Foundation recommends people allocate some time to relax or go through a relaxing routine activity before sleeping to help reduce stress and excitement. Maintain this schedule on a daily basis. Second, use earplugs or white noise to minimize outside distractions. Third, use eye masks or dark curtains to block light, which can stimulate the brain to stay awake. Fourth, avoid caffeine and coffee consumption four to six hours before night time, and consume less caffeine in the day. High caffeine consumption may result in insomnia and prevent restful sleep.

Fifth, use some mobile apps to track your sleeping cycle. In a recent article, Forbes listed 10 applications to track your lifestyle and sleep. Sixth, limit your afternoon naps. If you do take a nap, try to take one before 5:00 p.m. Seventh, do not exercise or eat right before bed. And eighth, avoid alcohol or nicotine consumption right before bed because this can reduce sleep quality.

Overall, improving your sleeping habits is crucial toward your physical and mental health. In fact, sleep plays a significant role in your studying habits, grades, and even fitness and weight.