Why do we need Sleep?
It may seem obvious that sleep is beneficial. Even without fully grasping what sleep does for us, we know that going without sleep for too long makes us feel terrible, and that getting a good night’s sleep can make us feel ready to take on the world.
Scientists have gone to great lengths to fully understand sleep’s benefits. In studies of humans and other animals, they have discovered that sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions. So why don’t we get more of it?
A Student’s Perspective on Sleep
Most students including myself underestimate the actual importance of sleeping. I often think that staying awake for several additional hours in the library will guarantee that I will get more work done. But this (unfortunately) is simply a delusion.
I either become half-engaged in what I’m doing or half-motivated. The equation is simpler than any maths equation we have ever encountered – the more you resist rest, the more stuck you are with your tasks.
Your brain and body need to rest, so that you can be more productive. I found it really hard to get more than 6-7 hours sleep because I have several modules at university, plus a part-time job and a Family to talk to on Skype.
When we add in the efforts we make to preserve our daily happiness levels, going to bed at regular hours and then actually sleeping both require a fair amount of dedication. Eventually I just realised that neither studying, working, nor paying attention to loved ones can happen without actually being healthy and energetic, states that are interconnected with sleep.
Common Sleep Problems
Often in university, we are rushing to and from classes, working on assignments, and pulling all-nighters — it’s hard for us to reflect on our daily healthy living actions. When people get rundown, they can get sick and even develop depression. As we discussed above, there are many biological and physiological reasons to get enough sleep. The average young adult needs 8-9.5 hours per night to function normally.
However, sometimes despite your best intentions, when your head hits the pillow you end up staring at the ceiling until 5am, unable to get to sleep. If you have experienced restless sleeping, or even over-sleeping, then you may have a sleeping problem, for which you should talk to your family doctor. Here are some sleep disorders that you should be aware of:
Insomnia – where you are regularly unable to fall asleep or remain asleep for a long enough period of time – is the most common sleep disorder in the UK, affecting 10% of the population.
Other sleep disorders include hypersomnia, where people don’t feel fully awake until hours after getting up, and narcolepsy, where people experience sudden attacks of extreme sleepiness.
Problems associated with sleep include sleep apnoea, teeth-grinding and night terrors, all of which may need treating. Other sleep-related disorders, such as snoring, sleepwalking or sleep talking, are generally not harmful.
Medical Benefits of Sleep (healthysleep.med.harvard.edu)
Why Sleep Matters (www.howdidyousleep.org)
- Sleep Disorders (funengtime.wordpress.com)
- Immune systems weakened by sleep disorders? (time4sleep.co.uk)