Being a student can be painful. Imagine yourself being strewn by books around you and a computer is on at 3 AM, because you are taking a major exam at 9 AM the next morning. You are fighting the sleep in your eyes, and you are very exhausted, but all you can think of is, “I should not sleep, I need to keep studying.”
When you are a student, you are consistently reminded by those in authority and your parents that academic success is a very important achievement to have. You are even told that you need to learn how to sacrifice your sleep hours in order to read and study more often, while also attempting to balance sports and whatever co-curricular activities you are interested in.
However, there are many students who are attempting to sacrifice their sleep, and always hitting a dead end. You find your concentration ability reduces, and you cannot seem to get the things that you learn in class. It is frustrating to say the least, yet no one encourages you to take a nap because it is seen as ‘laziness’.
It is very important to get enough amounts of sleep, so here are some reasons why it is an important factor to your success.
It affects learning ability
Sleep is very vital to any learning experience, regardless of whether you are a student or not. Regardless of whether you use Tuft and Needle mattresses or not, the break your body gets in this period is when certain sections of the brain are at their most active – particularly the hippocampus and neocortex.
In particular, the stage of REM sleep, which occurs right after deep sleep, is when these two regions of the brain consolidate memories of the day, and replay it to each other in form of dreams. The hippocampus relays short term memories to the neocortex, which then changes them into long term memories to be stored for future use.
This is particularly helpful during stressful periods such as the day before an exam. Many students are tempted to have late night cramming sessions for hours, then they do the exam while they are exhausted and crash sleep afterwards – a very unhealthy habit. When your brain has fewer opportunities to reach its REM phase (which occurs between four to five times when you sleep for 7-8 hours) the brain of the student fails to get sufficient time to process and cement the information they studied the day or night before.
Not only is sleep important for strengthening memories and learning ability, but also plays a vital role in prioritizing memories and ranking them according to their importance.
It improves emotional health
The less amounts of sleep you have every day, the more negative social interactions you get – in fact the correlation between the two is very strong. This is because you are more irritable when you lack sufficient sleep, not to mention the lack of energy to interact with your classmates and peers, and even lacking motivation to read.
What is not talked about much though is the influence of sleep on mental and emotional health. Because of these negative occurrences, you have higher chances of becoming mentally unstable as well as making riskier choices.
Promotes healthy functioning of the body
The optimal time for the body to recover is during sleep. It does not just affect the muscles and brain; but also the blood vessels, the bones, and there is greater balancing of hormones during this time.
If you constantly fall sick, part of the reason could be lack of sufficient sleep – the immune system is affected negatively. This is because the deprivation of sleep affects the manner that the immune system will respond to any foreign materials and pathogens within the body, and hormone levels are thrown off their standard ratio, which ends up affecting your health negatively.
Part of the result manifests in chronic traits and illnesses that are life threatening. These include heart disease and high blood pressure.
So how can you help yourself get better amounts of sleep?
The sad news is many teens, college students and students in general fail to get enough sleep – this is not really surprising, considering the society we live in today, and the fact that sleep is thought of as ‘being lazy’. In fact, according to data from ACES, almost half of children and adolescents (about 35 to 40 percent) go through some sleep deprivation as they grow up.
This does not mean that short-lived bouts of sleep are bad – they are generally not something to worry about too much, as it is easy to recover from them later. However, sleep deprivation is more of a concern, because it is a longer period of time when you are not getting enough sleep to promote your learning and general functioning.
Without getting adequate amounts of sleep, it becomes harder to sustain attention in the things you are trying to learn; no matter how much you might enjoy them. The neurons become overworked, and it becomes difficult for them to coordinate information efficiently, resulting in loss of the ability to remember information you learnt previously.
In order to improve the situation, you can always start with small changes to your sleeping routine, so that you gradually change your patterns. For instance, it is important to know the signs of fatigue in yourself, and when you notice them occurring, stop what you are doing and head off to bed.
In addition, it is important to reduce the exposure time you have to light from LED screens. This is because it delays the release of melatonin, the hormone that promotes the brain to wind down and encourages the body to shut down for sleep. At least leaving electronic devices like phones for an hour before going to bed is a good idea, because it will help you sleep earlier and better.
Sleep is not an activity for the lazy – because it promotes brain development and memory recall. For this reason, you need to incorporate more of it in your routine, as it will be important in your success as a student, both in your academic and co-curricular activities.