The Importance of Quality Sleep

Sleep, the ultimate goal after a long day. “You need to get a good night’s rest” is a phrase we often use, but what does this really mean? Sleep is the body's way of restoring itself for overall well-being. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), “Your ability to function and feel well while you're awake depends on whether you're getting enough total sleep and enough of each type of sleep. It also depends on whether you're sleeping at a time when your body is prepared and ready to sleep.” Don’t get sleepy while reading, because we’ll be exploring the science behind sleep, why it is important, and some sleep habit strategies!



The Science of Sleep


Ever heard of the circadian rhythm? All humans have a repeating 24-hour internal body clock that dictates our bodily functions. When your drive for sleep reaches the peak of your cycle, it signals your body to fall asleep. The environment around you can also influence your time to go to bed. When you have a window shining bright with sunlight, it cues your brain to know it is daytime and to not release a hormone called melatonin. If your environment becomes darker, the body will release melatonin and cause drowsiness, according to NHLBI. The opposite occurs with cortisol, a stress hormone that is built to wake you up!



The Importance of Sleep


At any stage of your life, particularly during your college career, it can be difficult to prioritize sleep. However, the advantages of good sleep are serious. Nobody can convince you to make sleep a top priority, but hopefully the list below will make you aware of the importance.

  1. Quality sleep creates less daytime sleepiness. A Harvard Summer School study revealed that high-quality rest will cause less caffeine consumption in long lectures and you’ll also be able to concentrate better. Attention to detail in all aspects of your life plays a crucial role in maintaining effective preparation for an exam.

  2. Good sleep assists with reacting safely. Let’s assume you are driving and the night before you had a terrible sleep. The symptoms of sleep deficiency occur within an instant, which could harm your decision-making when crossing through a yellow light or breaking early. Protecting yourself from these situations may be life saving.

  3. Sleep quality and stress go hand in hand. Not all stress is bad, but if you could improve your response with stress by sleeping, wouldn’t you? The more stressed you get, the more sleep you have to give up which connects to psychiatric problems down the road.


Sleep Habits Strategies

  • Light and darkness

  • If you're having trouble immediately getting out of bed in the morning, try to make a habit of opening your window to spike cortisol. The stress hormone will immediately tell your body to wake up.

  • Don’t confuse your body’s biological clock, especially on the weekends.

  • Sometimes we all feel that weekends are for sleeping in and “catching” up on sleep, but don’t fall into the trap of tricking your brain. It sounds counterintuitive, but staying consistent everyday will improve your sleep rhythm.

  • Limit that screen before bed

  • Specialized cells in light provide messages to the brain signaling whether it is day or night. “Exposure to bright artificial light in the late evening can disrupt this process, making it hard to fall asleep. Examples of bright artificial light include the light from a TV screen, computer screen, or a very bright alarm clock,” quoted in an article by LibreTexts .

  • Short naps are encouraged

  • According to Cleveland Clinic, “A short nap (less than 30 minutes) is OK if you’re very sleepy. But try to avoid naps after 3 p.m.” A long nap can negatively impact your body’s drive to sleep in the evening, so try taking a short nap immediately after lunch if you must!



Conclusion


The functionality of your life depends on sleep and quite frankly, will help you be a better student. The improvements, such as less daytime sleepiness and reduction of stress, can open new opportunities to do other activities you enjoy. Don’t sleep on the information above and have a good night’s rest!



By Izzy McIlvenna