Photo by: Gregory Pappas
The importance of sleep is widely discussed yet ignored; students are prone to fall victim to lack of sleep and it’s often not their choice.
Sometimes knowing something is good or bad for you is not enough, we know the dangers of smoking cigarettes yet tobacco continues to be a large and increasing industry. Just like sleep, there are internal and external factors affecting these decisions and outcomes.
For something that is essential to life, sleep is sometimes taken for granted. Perhaps this is due to how little we know about it. Even though research on sleep began in the mid-1800s and there have been many positive findings, a lot of what we know about sleep is based on what happens due to lack of sleep and not why we sleep.
Brock University has its own sleep research laboratory focusing on the role of sleep in our waking lives, but still narrowing down on the lack of sleep.
The laboratory page says, “some of the things we study include the impact of sleep deprivation and restriction on cognitive performance and emotion perception; the role of hormones in vulnerability to sleep loss; memory consolidation in sleep; the benefits of napping in young and older adults; and, mechanisms and consequences of insomnia.”
These give a glimpse of how important sleep is for cognition, perception, and memory which are often the main areas associated with sleep research. For university students sleep may be rare, but it’s worth noting the positive connection sleep has to both physical and mental well-being, which could also benefit academic performance.
Here is a short overview of some of the effects adequate sleep or lack of sleep has on us.
As previously mentioned, an adequate amount of sleep has benefits on memory retention, so the next time you think about pulling an all-nighter to study or are learning a new concept consider how beneficial prioritizing sleep can be for productivity and retention.
Other areas that adequate sleep increases are the ability to focus and perform cognitive tasks. This includes reaction times and awareness which covers broadly a lot of our daily tasks but more specifically driving.
Driving while sleep deprived is of course dangerous, and according to the National Safety Council “driving after going more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% – the U.S. legal limit.”
Sleep not only affects the brain but our other organs and systems as well. Sleep or lack off is known to affect hormones, metabolism, and more specifically, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, lack of sleep over time can increase the risk of chronic health problems such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and stroke.
Knowing that for the average person who sleeps approximately eight hours a day, which roughly translates to sleeping one-third of their life, sleep should be taken seriously as it is an inseparable part of our daily lives.
For more information, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has a more detailed explanation here.