Goodnight Moon, Goodnight Early Death

Being a college student definitely takes a toll on one’s sleep, and lack of sleep can cause more harm than just an unappealing physical appearance. A study published in Sleep Journal, a peer-reviewed scientific and medical journal, found that inadequate sleep could actually lead to premature death. A good night’s rest is extremely important, yet so many college students do not get sufficient sleep because they are too busy studying or socializing with friends. It is imperative that students realize the importance of sleep, and how their physical and mental health can be affected.

Although working on school assignments or partying may seem like the most important or appealing activity to do at night, students should seriously consider setting aside time for sleep. The Sleep Journal study found that sleeping too little could lead to the development of diabetes, obesity, hypertension and high cholesterol. A buildup of these negative health factors can eventually cause a person to have cardiovascular health problems such as a heart attack or an angina attack, which is chest pain due to inadequate blood flow to the heart. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School also claims that additional health risks include increased swelling and higher cortisol levels in the body due to heightened stress.

Aside from these physical health consequences, lack of sleep has the capability to detrimentally affect one’s mental health as well. Sleeping too little can change a person’s mood negatively and waking up on the wrong side of the bed is an undesirable way to start a day. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine, sleep deprivation is associated with people feeling discontent, apprehensive, mentally troubled, stressed, sad, angry and mentally fatigued. Additional consequences include a decrease in maintaining an optimistic outlook and less sociability. In addition, in a study in the official journal of the World Association of Sleep Medicine and International Pediatric Sleep Association, Sleep Medicine found a correlation between sleep disorders and feelings of depression in over half the subjects.

The mental health effects derived from lack of sleep do not merely involve the individual who did not get an adequate amount of sleep, but others who interact with the person as well. The sleep-deprived student’s depressed mood can bring other students to feel down, worried or stressed regarding their peer’s well being. College students have enough stress in their lives as it is and should not make the lack of sleep an additional contributor to stress.

Changing one’s poor sleeping habits can be a difficult and drastic process, but it is possible. In the United States, there is an organization dedicated to educating the public and raising awareness about the importance of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation provides information on their website about sleep and other resources such as how to find a Sleep Care Center. In order to spread awareness about sleep, the National Sleep Foundation has established a National Sleep Awareness week that will take place from March 7 to 13.

Sleep deprivation is a serious public health issue that needs to be tackled. College students need to wake up and realize how important sleeping is for their well being. We may be young and feel invincible now, but the consequences of not sleeping will catch up with us sooner or later.

So what are the secrets to a good night’s rest? Some pointers from the National Sleep Foundation are to make your sleep environment comfortable, dark and quiet. It is also helpful to clear your mind, create a regular and relaxing routine for bedtime and to not use your bed for activities other than sleeping or sexual intercourse. It may be tempting to think about everything you have to do the next day right before you go to sleep or to use your bed for studying, but do not take part in those actions as they will likely prevent you from falling asleep quickly and sleeping properly.

The bottom line is that sleep is important for all people, including “busy-bee” college students. Not sleeping as much as necessary can lead to premature death, physical illnesses and poor mental health. Be sure to get your six to eight hours of beauty sleep per night, because sleep is not just for a beautiful appearance, but also for a healthy body and mind as well.

Francesca Lomotan is a fourth-year public health major. She can be reached at flomotan@uci.edu.