Letter to the Editor: Sleep

To the Editor:

When it comes to health, most people focus on diet and exercise. Both are very important in our daily lives. Something that often doesn’t get acknowledged for its health benefits is sleep. Most of you probably laugh at that statement and think, “I’m in college, working a part-time or full-time job. How on earth do I have time for any sleep, let alone the recommended eight hours of sleep a night?”

My goal is to show you some important reasons why you need to get this sleep and some tips for how to accomplish this goal.

With our hectic schedules, we try to find ways to cope and keep going, so naturally for a lot of college students, we kick sleep to the curb and instead, we stay up studying and working on projects. By doing this, we think we are getting ahead. But instead, we are hurting ourselves in the process. Getting the proper amount of sleep, roughly eight hours a night, will increase productivity and ability to focus, while decreasing the risk of errors which helps you perform well in school. When we cut down on sleep, our minds slow down, and judgment and reasoning is impaired.

Your brain isn’t the only part of your body that benefits from this. You can also cut down your risk of developing chronic diseases that hinder quality of life such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. A recent study concluded that the hormones our bodies secrete, like insulin and cortisol, are better controlled by getting the proper amount of sleep.

Cortisol, “the stress hormone,” and insulin, which promotes glucose processing and fat storage both decrease during sleep which therefore, decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease (Harvard Medical School, 2007). As if those benefits aren’t enough, you are also less likely to get sick because while you’re sleeping, your body is building and maintaining its immune system to fight off things like the common cold.

Now that you know the benefits, here’s some tips to help you accomplish this goal. Developing a sleep schedule is one of the most important, and simple steps you can take. There are apps available to help you track your sleep. For example, on the iPhone you can set sleep reminders from the “clock” app. This allows you to set how many hours of sleep you want to get every night and adjust it based on what time you want to wake up in the morning.

Another important thing you should do before bed is shut off your electronics and keep the room dark. Your circadian rhythms are strongly influenced by the amount of light in your environment. So, if your room is brighter, then you are more alert; but if you’re in a dark room, more melatonin is produced, which makes you drowsy (Mayo Clinic, 2014).

Getting a good night’s sleep, eight hours, is extremely important for our mental and physical health. Just by setting aside time to get proper rest we can sharpen our minds and cut down on our risk of developing serious diseases and illnesses. Hopefully, you can apply some of these sleeping tips to your life and remember these facts the next time you think about pulling an “all-nighter.”

Caitlin O’Hara, nursing student.