Most college students get an average of 7 hours and 3 minutes of sleep during the weekdays, and about half an hour more during the weekends. While these results could trick us into thinking that students have healthy sleep routines, the truth is that this number can vary from one individual to another, and from one school to another.
Students live in a world that promotes success which requires numerous sacrifices, with sleep being the most popular one. Take Tom Ford, Martha Stewart, Barack Obama, and Elon Musk as examples. They get somewhere between three and six hours or sleep at night, and all of them consider that habit to be a vital part of their success.
While it may work for these ladies and gentlemen (we hardly doubt it), the truth is that minimizing your sleep hours to get more work done can actually be counterproductive, as it leaves you tired and unfocused. If you still loathe the necessity of sleep, here are some truths that could change your mind.
Why do we deprive ourselves the much-needed sleep?
People sacrifice sleep for many reasons, but one of the most frequent is because they want to achieve many things in the short 24 hours that make a day. This is often the case with students who try to squeeze in the ideal period of fun and tasks all in one day. This can be easily confirmed if you only take a look at some of the students’ groups and pages on social media, where there are many memes and jokes regarding the lack of sleep (e.g., sometimes when I sneeze, my eyes close; sleep is for the week).
Sometimes the lack of sleep is not a conscious choice. With all the demands of college and extracurricular activities, it can become impossible to accomplish everything if you don’t cut back on sleep.
And on other occasions, people just cannot sleep due to physical and mental difficulties or lifestyle habits. Here are some examples of that:
- Irregular sleep routine can throw your internal clock off the tracks. The solution is to synchronize your bedtime and sleep periods throughout the week.
- Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages can have a negative impact on your ability to fall and stay asleep, so cut back on them and don’t drink them too close to your bedtime.
- The dorms can be far from sleep-inducing, so try to adjust the lighting and temperature, and, if you can, get a new comfy mattress.
- Stress can make it hard for you to fall and stay asleep, so try some relaxing exercises (meditation, yoga, and deep breathing) or a warm bath.
- You could have a medical condition like insomnia which should be consulted with your doctor.
- Snoring is not a problem only for the roommate or partner. If you snore while you sleep, this can be an indicator of a far bigger problem, and it could make you feel tired even after you’ve got your eight hours of sleep. Depending on the scale of the sleep apnea or another sleep-related issue, the problem can be solved with a strip that keeps the mouth closed during the sleep and thus prevents snoring or surgical intervention.
Why do we need sleep?
We spend one-third of our lives sleeping, and many people think that this is too much time, so they try to cut it down for the prize of productivity. However, there are plenty of good reasons why we need between seven and nine hours of sleep depending on our age and other factors.
One of the critical tasks of sleep is to help consolidate our memories. This is important because our brains take in an enormous amount of information (which is particularly true for students). These experiences are not recorded into our brains right away. First, they need to be processed to be stored, which happens while we sleep.
Furthermore, our bodies need sufficient periods of sleep to synthesize hormones, repair tissue, grow muscle, restore and rejuvenate.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
Randy Gardner, the record holder for the longest time a person has deliberately stayed awake, didn’t get a shut-eye for 11 days and 24 minutes. At the end of this experience, he couldn’t solve simple math problems, his speech was indistinct, and his thinking was disordered.
You don’t have to go this far to feel the consequences of sleep deprivation. Even the slightest lack of sleep can have a negative effect on your organism. All of the brain functions which are vital for productivity, such as memory, problem-solving, and decision-making, are worsened. As for long term sleep deprivation, you risk a weakened immune system, coronary disease, weight gain, diabetes, skin issues, and being prone to accidents.
Sleep is not a luxury. It is not a duty. It is a necessity. It is a pre-requirement for living healthy and achieving success. So we must stop this trend of glorifying sleep deprivation. There is nothing “cool”, “brave”, or “necessary” about it.