Welcome to college! It’s Monday: you stay up until 2:00 a.m. studying for a test the following day. You get back from said test and immediately take a nap, optimistically hoping to sleep only an hour or so, but before you know it, you’ve slept half the day away. Now you’re going to be up until 2:00 a.m. for the second night in a row because you’re just not tired. Whoops—Oh, and we haven’t even gotten to the sleep schedule destroying temptation that is the weekend. But does any of that even matter? Do these sporadic slumber habits that so many college students develop hurt their potential for success and a healthy life?
Better Mornings: Our Bodies Crave Consistency
The human body is a machine of pattern, learning your daily process and optimizing its system to perform within those expectations. Sleep is probably one of the most important parts of this pattern and one of the most significant determining factors in establishing the consistency your body craves. Consider this: two individuals get exactly eight hours of sleep one night. One of them has slept eight continuous hours with a consistent wake-up time for several weeks and the second sleeps irregularly when their day allows for it. The first person will feel more well-rested and noticeably more alert in the morning. How? “With regular daily activities, our various body systems are able to prepare for and anticipate events. We naturally become more alert closer to our wake-up time,” (Dautovich “The Importance of A Healthy Sleep Routine”). Leave those grumpy, groggy mornings in the past and commit to some regularity.
Respect your Circadian Clock
As previously stated, our bodies are machines of pattern; they want to function on a predictable schedule. The circadian clock, also called the circadian rhythm, can almost be thought of as an “automatic-fish feeder” of hormones essential to natural daily processes. This internal clock makes our bodies sleepy when the day is over and wakes us up when it’s time to start a new one. We are actually programmed via this function to experience significant dips in energy about every 12 hours, which can be expected in the middle of the night and right after lunch for people with normal sleep habits. To have a random sleep schedule is to fight directly against the natural function of your innate sleep/wake cycle. Stay energized, motivated and on time and you’ll get more done and more out of life. Respect your circadian clock!
Give your Body a Fighting Chance Against Disease
A “good night’s rest” could be more appropriately dubbed a “healthy night’s rest” when considering the curative and preventive potential that regular and adequate sleep offers against certain diseases.
People who sleep too little are likely to overeat due an increase in appetite. Staying up too late can actually create changes in your metabolism, hunger hormones and insulin levels, which can lead you to feel more hungry but less able to manage caloric intake. This happens because of a drop in the hormone leptin, which regulates your hunger. The less sleep you get, the less leptin your body makes. This increased hunger coupled with poor digestive and metabolic efficiency can lead to weight gain.
Blood Sugar Issues:
Additionally, all this food you want to eat late at night may prove even more detrimental because consistently sleeping too little can make it much harder for your body to break down sugars. Poor sleep can literally lower your blood sugar levels by up to 40 percent, significantly increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Healthy sleep patterns have been shown to improve a person’s mood and make them feel less irritable. A lack of sleep is one of the most common causes of depression, so stay happy and go to bed on time! According to experts at Stanford University’s Department for the Diagnosis and Treatment for Sleep Disorders, college students should be getting at least eight hours of sleep each night.
BONUS: Things you (probably) didn’t know about sleep
- On average, one in five adults fails to get enough sleep (seven hours a night).
- You will spend about one-third of your entire life asleep, as opposed to a cat, who will spend two-thirds of its life asleep!
- It’s not uncommon for a person to fall asleep with their eyes open during a nap or even before bed… or maybe you’re just a really boring conversationalist?!
- Food takes a back seat to sleep in the short term. If you stopped eating and sleeping on the same day, sleep deprivation would kill you before starvation would.
- Humans are the only mammals that willingly delay sleep.
- Within in five minutes of waking up 50 percent of your dream is forgotten.
- There is no scientific evidence on whether other animals dream or not.
- A cold room is good for sleep! Our body temperatures have to slightly drop for us to fall and stay asleep, so go ahead and turn down the thermostat.
Have questions about how to personally improve your sleep and overall wellness?
UREC’s ThriveWell program has wellness coaches available to aid all students. Wellness coaching is a free service, providing NC State students with education, support and encouragement to develop behaviors for a healthier lifestyle. Stay tuned to our social media accounts for a follow up question and answer with the wellness coaches!
To contact a wellness coach email: firstname.lastname@example.org