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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Self-care: the importance of sleep

If you open up a social media page, or just search online, you’ll be able to find a lot of memes about life as a college student. A common theme, aside from stress over classes, is joking about the lack of sleep college students receive. You hear these jokes being made in real life, too. This cultural phenomenon is an issue.

Beyond jokes, there’s also very serious comments made about the lack of sleep students got. The concerning thing, to me, is that it’s not uncommon for these remarks to be made from a bragging perspective. People compare how little sleep they got. It can turn into a competition almost, at times (“man, I didn’t even get any sleep last nigh—calculus has me whipped”). There’s many reasons why people go for relating and comparing. This should not be normalized though.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an adult between the ages of 18 and 60 needs at least seven hours of sleep a night. Prior to that, we need 8–10. As a whole, college students do not fail that terribly, with most getting between six and seven hours a night when averaged. That does not mean that those sleepless nights aren’t impacting you though.

A lack of sleep can cause or correlates to many health issues. Weight gain, high blood pressure, higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke and worsened diabetes are some of the potential risks to lacking in sleep. A 2010 study showed that women who got less sleep were likely to have a shorter lifespan than those who got more sleep, and “the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2009 that being tired accounted for the highest number of fatal single-car run-off-the-road crashes due to the driver’s performance—even more than alcohol!”

Moving on from the negatives, there’s also all of the positives for getting a proper night’s sleep. Getting more sleep has been linked to improved memory, improved focus, less inflammation in the body, lower stress levels and even improved grades. Sleep can also help with having younger-looking skin and less dark circles. If you’re an athlete, you may be interested in knowing that a study conducted by Stanford University involving basketball players found that “optimal sleep is likely beneficial in reaching peak athletic performance.”

We have now reached the conclusion that sleep is important. It impacts your mental health, physical health, athletic performance and academic performance. So how do we put those facts into actions?

Planning out your day more and setting phone reminders can be a great way of getting to bed by a reasonable time, so that you can get the proper amount of sleep. You can set reminders for ten minutes before or half an hour before, if you want to give yourself enough time to get ready for bed prior to the time you decided to settle in. An amazing resource I found is the sleepyti.me bedtime calculator (which is at https://sleepyti.me/). You have two options—either to put in the current time or to put in when you plan on waking up. The website will then give you a set of ideal times to either wake up or go to bed, based on that information. The idea is to plan your sleep so that you’ll be waking up between sleep cycles, leaving you more refreshed as opposed to being jolted awake.

You can also utilize that app and planning to get more naps in. If you have the time available, a quick nap can be great to catch up on some of the sleep that you couldn’t properly get the night before. They don’t work for everyone, and having one too late in the day could negatively impact your sleep at night, but it’s still a viable option to consider. Oddly, there has been a study showing that 10 minute naps are more beneficial for feeling and working better than a 30 minute or longer one, as the latter can make people feel dazed.

Sleep is both vital to our mental and physical well-being. Investing time in getting proper sleep is also a form of self-care. It’s important for us, as students, to take care of our bodies and minds. Let’s keep up our health and focus to ace our classes in the coming months!