The Need to Know: Sleep Edition

By Asia Daggs
Assistant Web Content Manager

Everyone is probably in their final stages of getting back to their regular school routines. One of the bigger transitional issues we commonly deal with is our sleep schedule. Our bodies have trouble falling asleep due to daily habits of eating late, being ‘plugged in’ for late hours and anything else that can keep our brains wired up around bedtime. I am sure you all know how important sleep is to our physical and mental health, but if you need to be reminded of what sleep deprivation can cause, here are a few.

Sleep deprivation affects…

The Brain – overall cognitive function (decision-making, creativity, memory) is impaired and mental illnesses such as depression can form.
The Body – higher levels of insulin are released which can lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
The Heart – increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, risk of strokes.

“According to research by Brown University, at least 11 percent of students report good sleep. On the other hand, 73 percent of students (from the same study) were found to have sleep problems.” – HealthResearchFunding.org

You’ve heard it all before: Don’t watch TV or use the computer in bed, stay away from caffeine close to bedtime, don’t work out in the evening…and yet you’re still not sleeping? So what is next? Tons of people turn to sleeping pills in their time of need, but we always question if it is the healthiest choice. I personally have trouble with getting enough sleep, so I dug around to find the important background information.

You can find non-habit forming pills to take. Photo by Asia Daggs.
You can find non-habit forming pills to take. Photo by Asia Daggs.

Sleeping medicine is a somewhat reliable treatment to get a good night’s rest, but there are a few side effects that can be hazardous. The first question that comes to my mind is the possibility of forming an addictive habit of taking the medication. The treatment should be used for short term problems rather than chronic levels of sleep deprivation, so it shouldn’t be taken for more than a couple days in a row. The second worry stems from all of the capable side effects that the sleeping pills can induce. Constipation, dizziness, change in appetite and tingling in limbs are some but not limited to symptoms that can come from the medicine we take.

I personally get close to about six hours of sleep every night and I hardly wake up feeling rejuvenated. I have tried turning off all electronics at night and not eating anything too sugary close to bed time countless times, but it was not enough to make a difference. There is a huge variety of articles that offer many routines and other types of tips for better sleep, so before you go straight to pills, try to find the source of the problem and correct yourself to see if that helps at all.

Diet – Stay away from caffeine, spicy or acidic foods and nicotine (smoking).
Exercise – During the day because it promotes energy to last through the day, reduces stress.
Environment – Turn your room into a “sleep chamber”, don’t work or lounge in bed.
Bathing – Relaxes our bodies, can use soothing fragrances.
Consistency – Stick to a routine for faster and more reliable results.

Getting 6 hours of sleep per night on average causes a 1.7 greater risk of suffering from disease or death. – BrandonGaille.com

Keeping our bodies well rested will help you reap more benefits than you thought; issues like depression, obesity, etc. can be formed from not enough sleep. Try your hardest to stay on a strict and consistent schedule of eating, daily activities and sleeping. Remember to care for your body, before it is too late. If your sleeping problems are more serious than average and the tips mentioned above haven’t helped, you should consult with your doctor before you start to take any medication.

Holly Henrichsen

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