The Importance of Sleep

If you haven't already, read Theo's first Article, Dealing With Stress During Covid          

 

          Being Cheverus students, it would be safe to assume that we understand the value, and scarcity of a good night's rest. In many ways, a lack of sleep has been accepted as a cruel universal law imposed by society. Coffee becomes a necessity, as well as the snooze button, an all too commonly used savior from the harsh reality of morning. All-nighters are considered a badge of honor, and by many, sleep is considered optional. Whether it’s cramming for an exam the following day or playing video games, most teenagers, and many adults, find an ample amount of justifications to waste the midnight oil. This, however, is not only seriously detrimental to our health but deleterious to our mental well-being. 

Benefits of Sleep: 

          While it’s almost certain that we all love to sleep, there are serious benefits to getting a good night's rest. For one, a higher quality of sleep can drastically improve many aspects of one's psyche, such as cognition, concentration, productivity, and daily performance. Secondly, sleep can improve memory, as sleep is primarily spent by our brain, turning short-term memories (acquired throughout the day), into long-term memories. Thirdly, the saying ‘waking up on the right side of the bed’ rings true, as a quality night's rest leaves you refreshed and positive in the morning. Fourthly, quality sleep can improve skills in sport. In a study, psychologists found that athletes who had longer, quality sleep were shown to significantly improve in their speed, accuracy, reaction times, and mental well-being. 

Risks of a Lack of Sleep: 

          According to Matthew Walker, author of ‘Why We Sleep’, those individuals who sleep less than 5 hours a night have a 65% higher likelihood of dying at any time. However, that percentage decreases if longer periods of sleep are taken, say, on the weekend. However, this “sleep bolehmia” (as Walker puts it,) i.e. depriving ourselves of sleep during the week for any given reason, and then over-sleeping during the weekend, not only increases our mortality rate but also reduces the quality of that life. There’s a common misconception that an individual can “save up” sleep prior to a known event that would deprive them of quality sleep, like a flight or trip. This is not the case. In addition, you can’t regain the sleep that you’ve lost. Say, you pull an all-nighter studying for an exam the next day, unfortunately, you can’t earn that sleep back the following night, though, you will fall asleep much earlier. Other studies found that a lack of sleep drastically increases one’s risk for many serious conditions such as cancer, depression, obesity, immune disease, and cardiovascular issues like heart failure and heart attack. A serious lack of sleep also increases blood sugar levels to diabetic levels. Now, with finals upcoming, you may consider going to bed earlier and waking up earlier to study in the morning. The advantage of this is that you’re better able to recall information while taking a test when you review said information that morning rather than the night before. 

How to Sleep Better:

          Now that you’ve been woken up to the importance of sleep, a simple question is commonly asked, “How can I get better sleep?” Since many of us do not have the luxury of getting more sleep, we may instead ask how we can get better sleep, and the answer is multifaceted: (1) Do not consume caffeine 10 hours before bed. (2) Turn off your phone an hour before going to bed. (3) Make your room as dark as possible. (4) Cool your room down to 65ºF. All of these methods help to provide a better night's rest, leaving you rested when you wake up.

The Early Bird: 

          Another solution to this morning dread (the alarm clock) is to go to bed earlier. Most people’s productivity peaks and falls throughout the day, but most people’s productivity falls and (for all intents and purposes) dies by 6:00 pm. However, there remains a minority (17% according to Live Science) of people who would be considered ‘Night owls.’ Their productivity only peaks in the late hours of the evening, and perhaps, even early morning. It seems society arbitrarily discriminates against ‘Night owls’ as their productivity peaks while others are going to bed, and while society wakes, it seems, ‘Night owls’ only want to sleep. Nonetheless, for most of us, going to bed early doesn’t seem right. Perhaps it vaguely resembles the days when our parents would tell us it was ‘bedtime,’ or perhaps there are many things we wished to do in the early and late hours of the evening such as play video games or study for exams, but for the most part, evenings tend to be the least productive time of the day. Thereby, another approach could be made by using that unproductive time to sleep, so as to wake up earlier.

There exist very strong reasons to wake up earlier than most. The saying ‘the early bird gets the worm’ is more true than you might think. For example, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, wakes up every morning at 4:30 am, so too does Robert Iger, the Executive Chairman of Disney. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon wakes up at 6:45 am, while Elon Musk wakes up a bit later (but goes to bed later) at 7:00 am. These are some of the wealthiest and most successful people in the world, all waking up before or at 7:00 am. Waking up in the morning provides more time to do the things you want to do. Whether it’s working on a business project, reading a book, taking a shower, or exercising, waking up early allows you to get a head start on your day. 

     

          In conclusion, sleep, just like nutrition and exercise, is a fundamental part of a well-balanced life, unfortunately, it’s rarely given the weight of importance it deserves. To get a quality night’s rest is a rarity in today's bustling society. There’s so much else one could do than sleep, but if sleep was given the weight it deserves, it would be a priority for most if not all of us to get a good night’s sleep. So, as Brahms would say, ♬‘Go to sleep, go to sleep…’♬.

Theo Burkhardt, Columnist