The Importance of Sleep

By Emi Yasuda

     In the work culture of the modern world, sleep can easily be regarded as a futile process. When time is limited, and work is boundless, taking an eight-hour break seems entirely illogical. In the words of Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov,
“Sleep is the most moronic fraternity in the world, with the heaviest dues and the crudest rituals.”
While regarding sleep as an unyielding enemy seems like a logical path, this essential biological process is much more than a ritualistic burden. Before deciding that purposeful sleep deprivation is the way to go, you may want to consider its health and social consequences. Lack of sleep sure does a lot more than make you drowsy the next day or late for class.
For starters, low sleep can significantly reduce your stress threshold. In a study conducted earlier this year, a team of seven researchers found that sleep deprived individuals have higher levels of stress compared to those who get a full night’s sleep. Participants in the study were kept three days overnight and were given activities in the daytime such as delivering a speech in front of a three-member panel and completing complicated arithmetic. The researchers ascertained from their results stress-related consequences for night owls, including poor judgement, anxiety, in addition to lowered social acuity. Does this sound familiar?
However, the consequences of sleep deprivation can extend far beyond a stressful day at school. Multiple studies have suggested a correlation between mental illness and sleep loss. Before mental conditions are diagnosed, subjects often have pre-existing sleep disorders. At Harvard Medical School, researchers noted a connection between depression and poor sleep. When you get less sleep, your levels of serotonin decrease. Serotonin impacts your mood, and an imbalance in your levels can lead to anxiety, depression, and even anger.
Getting a good night’s rest is even more essential for athletes. From experience, you’ll know that rest will make you more active and alert. However, this is just one of sleep’s many benefits. Sleep gives your body time to restore. Without this time, muscle injuries or any trauma caused by working out or playing a game will take longer to heal.  Researchers studying the Stanford University basketball team, found that after several months of increased sleep, players’ speeds increased by 5% and their free throw accuracy increased by 9%! Now imagine what you could do with a few more hours of shuteye! Ace every test, get a hole in one. Why even the SAT would be child’s play…
Sleep, however, is not only important for athletes. Unsurprisingly, your academic performance also suffers from poor sleep habits. These pitfalls go far beyond falling asleep in class. The time you spend sleeping is essential to process the information you learned during the day. Without enough sleep, you are likely to forget what you studied, or have been too tired to study in the first place!
Although your schedule may be busier than New York’s Penn Station, remember that it’s still important to prioritize your health. While cutting down sleep may seem like a good option in the short term, the long term health consequences can be detrimental. But, if you are truly unsure about changing your habits, I’d recommend just sleeping on it.

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