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Column: A good night's sleep is essential to a good day's health

by Sara Connor - Prevention & Outreach Services
Tue, May 2nd 2017 07:00 pm
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There are health risks to not sleeping enough and benefits to getting just the right amount for those who want to keep themselves healthy semester to semester;  Above, a study by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows that more crashes happen when drivers are fatigued.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons There are health risks to not sleeping enough and benefits to getting just the right amount for those who want to keep themselves healthy semester to semester; Above, a study by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows that more crashes happen when drivers are fatigued.

With final exams coming up, along with juggling class, work, family, friends and summer preparations (among other things), sleep often becomes our last priority. 

Society often encourages us to feel guilty if we don't pull an all-nighter for an exam because if we don't, clearly we're not trying hard enough and we're "bad students." After all, "sleep is for the weak," right? 

We're sometimes pushed to go out on Friday nights no matter how exhausted we are because "we can sleep when we're dead!" Sleep is made out to be a luxury, something for the weak or lazy, and something that should be the least of our concerns. It can often seem like not getting enough sleep is just part of college - just part of being an adult.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we glorify working to our breaking point? Staying up late and waking up early? Existing on coffee and energy drinks? We do this because in America we value hard work and if you're sleeping, how can you be working hard? 

This cultural glorification of sleep deprivation is messed up on so many levels. Let me elaborate.

First, let me say very clearly: sleep is essential for our physical and mental health. Consider this quote from Wayne H. Giles, MD, MS, Director of the Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: "Getting sufficient sleep is not a luxury - it is a necessity - and should be thought of as a 'vital sign' of good health."

Let's repeat it one more time for the people in the back: "Getting sufficient sleep is not a luxury - it is a necessity - and should be thought of as a 'vital sign' of good health."

When we talk about sleep, we talk about "sleep hygiene." Sleep hygiene is the term for habits and practices that are conducive to getting sufficient sleep on a regular basis. Having good sleep hygiene does amazing things for your body and mind. Having poor sleep hygiene? The opposite. 

Good sleep hygiene is linked to better physical health. You'll be less at risk for serious health conditions and have a stronger immune system. It's also perfect for: better memory and clearer thinking; better mental health - you'll have improved emotional regulation and be less at risk for developing depression, anxiety or related illnesses; lower risk of injury from car or machinery-related accidents; better sex life; healthier skin; better weight control and more!

Bad sleep hygiene does the opposite of all of its benefits, including: a greater likelihood of catching the common cold; slowed reaction time; impaired alertness (which causes car and machinery-related accidents); and learning difficulties. Being sleep-deprived impairs concentration, reasoning and problem-solving and makes it more difficult to remember what you've learned.

Sleep is amazing. Let's destroy this idea that getting enough sleep makes us lazy or boring. Getting enough sleep makes us healthy. Catch us next semester in The Stylus as we make health contagious!

prevention@brockport.edu