Causes of sleep deprivation
Unfortunately, in some college cultures it is a badge of honor to brag about how little sleep you get. College students facing finals often rely a stash of Red Bull, coffee, or worse, pills and stimulants. These quick fixes are not the answer and can actually make things worse. Understanding why sleep disruptions occur and then taking steps to correct the problem is what will help you succeed over the long term.
The most common causes of sleep deprivation include:
- Stress and anxiety
- Ritalin, alcohol and/or drug abuse
- All-night studying for a test the next morning
- Interrupted sleep and eating patterns
Effects of sleep deprivation
A good night’s sleep varies with each person, but for adolescents and young adults, it is generally considered to be eight or more hours per 24 hours. Less than eight hours and the body’s efficiency starts to decline. “We know little about the health of this age range even though the consequences — substance use, psychopathology, poor grades, dropout and subsequent unemployment — of sleep disturbance could be greatest,” said Daniel Taylor, assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Texas, reported in “Significant sleep deprivation and stress among college students, USA,” August 10, 2009 in MedicalNewsToday.com.
In addition to the poor outcomes Professor Taylor reports, other effects of sleep deprivation on your overall well-being include:
- Missed classes
- Poor classroom performance
- Difficulty concentrating
- Declines in blood glucose metabolism, blood pressure control and/or insulin sensitivity
- Weight gain. Sleep deprivation may cause you to gravitate to unhealthy comfort food and may affect your metabolism. According to a study in Psychoneuroendocrinology, people who are were tired chose bigger portions of food, felt hungrier and had increased blood levels of ghrelin, a hunger-stimulating hormone.
- Mental health issues. “When you find depression, even when you find anxiety, when you scratch the surface 80 to 90 percent of the time you find a sleep problem as well,” said University of Delaware psychologist Brad Wolgast, reported in HuffingtonPost.com’s August 30, 2012 article “Colleges open their eyes: ZZZs are key to GPA” by Justin Pope.
How adequate sleep improves performance
Sleep helps you remember. “A good night’s sleep triggers changes in the brain that help to improve memory, according to a new study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center” in Boston, according to “Study shows how sleep improves memory,” June 29, 2005, in ScienceDaily.com. Going to bed and getting eight hours of sleep before a test makes the brain remember the information you just learned. Some studies have shown that students who get adequate sleep generally receive a full letter grader higher than students who are chronically sleep deprived.
How to get more sleep
The human body needs regulated sleep and a predictable schedule of food intake and rest to run efficiently. To ensure that you achieve these goals, follow these quick tips:
- Pick a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Regularity is the key. Your body will known when to expect sleep and will rejuvenate the most when it gets enough.
- Don’t take stimulants, caffeine, alcohol or food three to four hours before going to bed.
- Make sure your sleep area is dark, quiet and comfortable to induce sleep.
- Wear earplugs to help block-out noise. You can find simple foam earplugs at your local pharmacy.
- Take short power naps during the day. If you have an hour or two between classes, lie in bed and doze. Don’t forget to set your alarm.
- Leave enough time to study; don’t pull all-nighters.
- Start your key performance activities a bit later in the day. Sports coaches and teachers are increasingly deciding not to schedule early morning practices and classes. Some schools moved classes from before 8 a.m. to 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. Just that little later starting time improves student performance.
Without damaging drugs or stimulants, you can easily get your body back on track and working for you. Sleep at a regular time each night for at least eight hours, eat nutritious food (fruits and veggies each day), eat at regular times and limit alcohol consumption. Treat your body well, and it will treat you well.