Last week was National Sleep Awareness Week, but you were probably too busy pulling all-nighters to think about it.
Getting a good night’s sleep is extremely important, and while you can make all the excuses you want, each day your body needs a certain amount of sleep (usually seven or eight hours) to function properly.
The mind and body don’t completely shut down during sleep. In fact, the brain exhibits so much activity during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, it earns the nickname “paradoxical sleep.” Metabolic rate and cerebral blood flow decrease to about 75 percent of their full capacity during sleep, which is how the body uses sleep to literally recharge for the next day.
Cognitive abilities can be impaired by missing even just a single night’s sleep.
REM sleep is associated with learning, and if a person is asked to take a test after taking a short nap, he or she is likely to perform better that someone who has been up studying for hours on end.
Most college students aren’t getting a full seven or eight hours of sleep every night.
You may say that you do not need that much sleep, and indeed, there are people who can function normally with five or six hours of sleep per night.
However, sleep occurs in stages, and the body needs sufficient time to go through each of those stages. This is why we can appear groggy and disoriented when woken up in the middle of the night.
However, it is estimated that 70 million Americans are living with some kind of sleeping disorder.
_ Insomnia: If you function fine with five hours of sleep a night, there’s nothing wrong with you; you’re just a short sleeper.
But if pain or discomfort cause a lack of sleep, then insomnia might be to blame. Taking a prescription like Ambien may not be the best solution.
In drug dependency insomnia, the body develops a tolerance to the drug, requiring more of the drug to be effective and experiencing withdrawal symptoms if the drug is taken away.
Sleep apnea is another form of insomnia where a person stops breathing upon falling asleep. Almost everyone experiences sleep apnea on a small scale, but it usually doesn’t affect sleep.
This is especially true with people who snore. Usually, sleep apnea is caused by an obstruction of the airway, and this can be corrected by surgery or special devices.
Narcolepsy: If you find yourself falling asleep in classes or in the middle of the day, you might be suffering from sleep attacks that are characteristic of narcolepsy.
These attacks usually occur under monotonous, boring conditions, so while falling asleep in a boring three-hour lecture might seem normal, it can be a symptom of something that needs to be checked out.
A cataplexy is a more serious symptom of narcolepsy. During REM sleep, the body will experience muscular paralysis.
A cataplexy causes a person to wilt and fall like a bag of sand.
The person will be fully conscious during this time, but they can experience muscular paralysis anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.
If you are worried that you have a sleep disorder, it is better to realize it now, before you head into the working world, so it can be corrected.
Before you resort to any drastic measures though, try getting a full night’s rest every night, not just on the weekends or on Wednesdays when you don’t have class.
You can also maximize your performance in class if you squeeze in short naps of about 30 minutes every day.
Sleep is not something that should endanger your ability to perform well on a test.
Sleep is actually your best friend in that regard.