Increasing sleep deprivation rates harm students’ health

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The majority of college students are sleep deprived while school is in session. (Courtesy of sterling-academy.org)

An estimated 33 percent of college students get sufficient sleep while school is in session — meaning the majority of student are sleep deprived. But if students don’t snooze, they could lose more than they would expect. Here is the truth about what happens to the body when one doesn’t get enough sleep, starting from the first night.

Students are no strangers to sacrificing sleep. As the semester comes to a close, all-nighters and late-night study sessions are common practices for many. College students facing finals often rely on a stash of Red Bull and other stimulants to make it through the final stretch of classes. But the best study habits include adequate sleep.

There are many causes of sleep deprivation, but these are the most common among college students:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • ADD or ADHD medication, alcohol and/or drug abuse
  • All-night studying
  • Interrupted sleep and eating patterns

No surprise that staying up all night studying for exams often hurts more than it helps. Students surrendering beauty sleep to cram for tests often find the facts and figures they could remember at 2 a.m. can’t be remembered the next day. Sleep deprivation impacts cognitive function, and without adequate rest, the brain becomes foggy hindering fine motor skills and worsening judgement.

Those who lose sleep also risk losing their mind and their health. Sleep deprivation not only leads to memory loss, but it also puts students at greater risk for a number of health problems such as heart disease and obesity. Even short-term sleep deprivation is linked to signs of brain tissue loss.

After one night of sleep deprivation people are hungrier and apt to eat more. Research has linked short-term sleep deprivation with a propensity to load up on larger portions as well as have a greater preference for high-calorie, high-carb foods. After all-nighters people are more likely to choose unhealthy foods while grocery shopping.

Beauty sleep is actually a real thing — even short-term sleep loss can have anyone not looking their best. A small study published last year in the journal SLEEP found that sleep deprived participants were rated as less attractive.

People are also more likely to have accidents and catch a cold after one night of inadequate sleep. Getting six or fewer hours of rest each night triples the risk of driving accidents according to the National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsydriving.org.

Lack of sleep can make one more clumsy in general, regardless of being behind the wheel or not.

Not getting enough shut-eye can also increase the likelihood of catching a cold. Proper rest is essential for building a healthy immune system. A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that sleeping fewer than seven hours a night was linked to a tripled risk of coming down with a cold.

Sleep loss over long periods of time wreak havoc on the body from head to toe. The risk of stroke quadruples and other studies have linked lack of sleep to both colorectal and aggressive breast cancers. Many studies have suggested a relationship between chronic sleep deprivation and an increased risk of diabetes
as well.

Long-term sleep loss also jumps the risk of obesity. Short-term sleep loss not only leads to increased caloric consumption, but multiple studies have also suggested a link between chronic sleep deprivation and increased obesity risk over time. A study published in the American Journal of Human Biology showed that little sleep was connected to changes in appetite regulation.

Chronic sleep deprivation is also associated with high blood pressure, high amounts cholesterol in arteries, heart failure and heart attacked according to Harvard
Health Publications.

Lack of sleep is also tied to mental health issues. Young people that experience depression and anxiety almost always report having a sleep problem as well. Those who aren’t getting enough shut-eye are also more likely to be emotional and are viewed as being more unapproachable.

A SLEEP study evaluating 1,741 men and women over 10 to 14 years old found that men who slept fewer than six hours had a significant increase in mortality risk, even after adjusting for diabetes, hypertension and other factors.

It’s no secret that a good night’s sleep can make anyone feel better. Adequate sleep gives the body time to recharge, but it is also crucial for the brain’s ability to learn and recall information.

Sleeping for eight hours triggers changes in the brain that improve memory and before a test makes the brain remember information that was recently learned before a test. Some studies have shown that students getting adequate sleep receive a full letter grade higher than students who are chronically sleep deprived.

The body needs regulated sleep and rest in order to run properly. College students often struggle with getting enough sleep, even when they try to obtain
adequate amounts.

So why are students still awake when they should be resting? Assignment deadlines and constantly being surrounded by various kinds of stimulation keep young people up at night.

Ditching the TV at night and turning off phones and computers can help one get the most out of the sleep they get. Sleeping with the TV on disrupts sleep cycles, and messing with phones and computers before bed can make falling asleep more difficult.

Regularity is key for a healthier sleep schedule. Setting a bedtime routine can help one fall asleep faster.

This routine doesn’t have to be anything complicated — reading for 20 to 30 minutes before bed or taking a hot bath before bedtime are both excellent routines that help tell the body when it’s time for rest.

Avoid taking stimulants, drinking caffeine and alcohol, and eating food three to four hours before trying to sleep. Alcohol also messes with sleep cycles, so skip on the booze and sleep sober in order to get more quality sleep.

Taking short power naps during the day can also help one get more sleep. Students who have an hour or two between classes could use that time to rest to help make up for lost sleep.

Also make sure that the area where one try to sleep is dark, comfortable and quiet. Wearing ear-plugs can help reduce noise and induce sleep.

Taking these steps will easily get the body back on track. Sleeping at regular times each night can work wonders for students, especially during finals week. Those who treat the body well will be treated well by the body.

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