Op-ed: Sleep is even more important than you think
I’m a college student with an overwhelming schedule. But I do sleep eight hours a night.
Yes I have numerous papers to write. Yes I am engaged with the student body. But most importantly, yes I prioritize self-care. Something I learned my first semester was that if I don’t care for my body— nurture it the way that nature intended— I am guaranteeing fatigue. Put simply, I am limiting my quality of life. No way can I write papers to my full capacity, no way can I empathize to the degree that I would when well rested, no way will my motivation resemble the resilience I have after a good night’s sleep.
I’m writing this because each and every one of us deserves good health, and somehow this necessity has been lost in our culture of sleep deprivation. Flaunting that you slept for 2 or 3 hours isn’t commendable when your mind and body are crying for help. We need to prioritize our health, because those A’s we yearn for are easier to obtain when we nourish our minds and bodies with sleep. I promise.
Finals are approaching. It might seem practical to stay up late cramming for exams, but without sleep, your memory does suffer. Sleep and memory are bilaterally related. You lack sleep and your memory suffers.
There are three stages of memory, acquisition, consolidation, and recall. Two of these stages function during the day, acquisition, when you are completing assigned readings, and recall, when you are discussing those readings in class. Consolidation on the other hand, when we convert short-term memory (20-30 seconds of memory) to long-term memory, takes place during sleep.
When we sleep our neural connections are cementing our memories. Copious research will tell you that because of consolidation, critical thinking skills improve. Response time in recalling terms, composing papers, and reciting presentations enhances. All it takes is a routine eight hours of sleep a day.
Sleep deprivation also contributes to restlessness and poor emotional regulation. Yes, I’m talking about that time when you were especially angry and felt yourself overreacting about something you would have blown off on any other day. See there is science behind it: our minds are compiled of many functions that collaborate to keep up with our daily habits.
Now, when we are sleep deprived, the amygdala, which generates basic emotions, isn’t in sync with our frontal cortex, which regulates those emotions. Our judgment is tainted, and we are prone to human-error. Yes, you are more likely to partake in self-destructive behaviors. Yes, when deciding between two multiple choice answers you are more likely to choose incorrectly. If you deprive yourself of sleep you also deprive your mind of the judgment that is essential to doing well on exams.
I don’t mean to scare you. I just want to make you aware that you are capable of not only acing your exams, but reclaiming your health. You can do this simultaneously by routinely sleeping for 8 hours a night. Take pride in your mind’s and body’s abilities by nurturing them.
Jacqueline Lantsman is a freshman majoring in Public Health in the College of Arts and Sciences.