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Sleep is the best medicine

March 24th, 2011

I have been noticing lately that people around me are suffering from a lack of sleep. Usually I would expect myself to be under this same condition, but lately I have been pretty well-rested.

I have never been a person who was able to stay up all night. I was always the first one to fall asleep at sleepovers in middle school. Throughout high school I usually went to bed around 10 p.m.

I am still not able to stay up late, even though I am immersed in a social world where staying up all night to party, do homework or cram for an exam is a common occurance. If there is a Cavs game on at night, I usually make it through the first half before I fall asleep. If I have a lot of homework that needs to be done, I almost always make the executive decision that I would rather go to bed.

The only time I am able (and willing) to pull an all-nighter is on Tuesdays when I am working in the newsroom on deadline nights. In my life, Wednesdays are meant to be spent in class and napping.

Since this has been my sleeping pattern for so long, I have realized two things: I absolutely love to sleep, and I am really good at it.

I find sleep to be a crucial part of my life. I need a solid eight hours to bring my A-game each day. Lately I have been wondering why sleep is so important, so I spent some time reading what WebMD has to say.

I found that there are various short term and long term consequences of sleep deprivation.

One short term consequence is decreased performance and alertness. According to WebMD, “reducing your night time sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night could result in a reduction of daytime alertness by as much as 32 percent.”

Another short term consequence is memory and cognitive impairment. Sleep deprivation decreases a person’s ability to think and process information.

Stress can be both a cause and a consequence of sleep deprivation. As a consequence, stress levels can significantly increase. Sleep deprivation can also cause stress to relationships. Nobody wants to be around someone who is grumpy.

As another short term consequence, lack of sleep can result in an overall poor quality of life. It can make keeping sufficient focus on important activities such as classes, exams, athletics, work and other extracurriculars very difficult.

The most significant consequence I found from WebMD was sleep deprivation’s effect on automobile accidents. “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates conservatively that each year drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities.”

If bad sleeping habits persist, it could be due to, or lead to, a sleeping disorder. This can be dangerous if not tended to properly. Especially in the college environment, sleep is extremely important and should be a priority.

I discovered that sleep deprivation can have true medical concerns as well. This is where the long term consequences come into effect.

Some long term concerns include high blood pressue, heart attack, stroke, obesity, psychiatric problems, Attention Deficit Disorder, mental impairment and injury from accidents.

This is serious business, and in my opinion, nothing is worth risking these problems. I have too many commitments and responsibilites to be sleep deprived. Plus, I love to sleep too much to compromise any of that time doing anything else.