Sleep Awareness Week emphasizes health

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Sleep Awareness Week begins on March 10 and ends March 16. A lack of sleep can affect many aspects of a person’s life. However, only 10 percent of Americans prioritize it, according to a 2018 report by the National Sleep Foundation.

Health educator at the Moffitt Health Center Kayla Johnson said sleep is an important factor for day-to-day activities.

“On average, college-aged students need approximately seven to nine hours of sleep. Getting enough quality sleep is important for several reasons. Sleep plays a major role in the effective functioning of many of our body processes,” Johnson said. “Being well-rested can improve your ability to learn and focus, which allows you to better maintain that information. You’ll be less likely to forget things in comparison to someone who is not getting enough sleep.”

Due to lack of sleep, many students rely on caffeine to help keep them going throughout the day. The caffeine blocks sleep-inducing chemicals and increases adrenaline production. Along with sleep disturbance, caffeine can also cause anxiety and irritability, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

“Well-rested people also tend to be happier. They are better able to cope in times of stress/upsetting situations and may feel less stressed overall,” Johnson said. “Getting enough sleep also improves productivity, which is important as a college student juggling multiple classes and other responsibilities.”

Sleep does not only improves mood and ability to learn. Having a good night’s sleep can better maintain the immune system. With chronic sleep loss, the body is less effective in producing enough protein to protect against inflammation and infections, which reduces the body’s ability to respond to illness.

Johnson said if you are not getting enough sleep, your immune system will not be able to maintain its ability to fight off infection, which means you may get sick easily.

“Chronic sleep deprivation may impair overall academic performance, ability to regulate moods and may compromise your ability to drive safely,” Johnson said. “Those getting more sleep tend to have higher GPAs than those who don’t get enough sleep. A student’s sleep pattern may be more important than the amount of sleep the student is getting.”

Not getting enough sleep can be a problem; however, sleeping too much can cause problems as well. Oversleeping can affect the heart, glucose metabolism and blood pressure. Sleeping too much can also lead to weight gain, anxiety and depression. Prioritizing sleep and maintaining a good sleep schedule is important to balance a healthy life.

Junior polymer science major Sarah Gaston said she tries to balance her sleep schedule with labs, studying in the library and her busy class schedule.

“I try to go to bed by 11 p.m. and try to wake up by six thirty in the morning,” Gaston said. “If I don’t get enough sleep during the night, I usually end up taking a long nap during the day. Then my sleep during the night is different.”