What difference does sleep make for your health and well-being? Actually, a lot. Getting too little sleep may affect your ability to learn, your health, your mood and even your sex life. For college students, the impact on learning is especially noteworthy.
Sleep loss affects how you think. It impairs your concentration, your mental clarity and ability to retain information. Studies have found people who are sleep-deprived are worse at solving logic or math problems. While asleep, your brain forges new connections and helps memory retention. Sleep deprivation leaves your brain exhausted, so it can’t perform its duties as well.
Getting seven or more hours of sleep a night has shown to reduce your likelihood of getting sick. Without enough sleep, your brain and body systems won’t function normally. During sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical balance.
According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (biased perhaps?), up to 26% of people say that their sex lives tend to suffer because they’re just too tired. And it’s embarrassing to be out on a date and fall asleep at the movies.
Sleeping enough may actually keep you safer too. The signals your body sends may also come at a delay, decreasing your coordination skills and increasing your risks. Accidents are more likely when you’re tired – you might trip, fall off a ladder, cut yourself chopping vegetables or make poor decisions. The U.S. Institute of Medicine estimates that one out of five auto accidents in the U.S. results from drowsy driving.
When you’re tired, you’re more likely to be cranky. And your emotional regulation is impacted. Thus you may have less patience with your boyfriend/girlfriend, or lose your temper in traffic or not be able to cope with daily frustrations.
More sleep equals better weight control. Say what? Part of it is behavioral. If you’re overtired, you might be less likely to have the energy to exercise or to cook a healthy dinner. The other part is physiological. The hormone leptin plays a key role in making you feel full. When you don’t get enough sleep, leptin levels drop. If you’re tired, you’re hungrier and possibly craving high-fat, high calorie foods in particular. (U.S. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research, Washington DC).
Hey – it’s not easy to always get enough sleep. You’ve got school, family, work and possibly even some social or personal time! Or maybe you have insomnia or another sleep disorder. The solutions are never simple, one-step plans. Just know that sleep is important to your overall well-being. And do what you can to regularly get sevenish hours of sleep a night. (then again, you may have fallen asleep reading this…)