Sleep deprivation and you

Leenika Belfield-Martin | Lifestyle Editor

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Flickr User Mathias Appel

Do you have bags under your eyes big enough to go shopping with? Do you struggle to stay awake during your afternoon lectures? If so, you could be suffering from sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation is defined by the Sleep Association as “not obtaining adequate total sleep,” or consistently obtaining less than six hours of sleep each night. While as many as 70 million Americans suffer from it, sleep deprivation is an especially common occurrence in college students. Up to 60 percent of college students have poor sleep quality due to irregular routines and other causes, according to the Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.

Lack of sleep impacts a student’s academic performance in many ways. Students suffering from sleep deprivation have trouble thinking clearly, retaining information and forming memories. This has been proven through numerous recent studies whose authors have concluded that sleep has an impact on students’ test performances.

Sleep deprivation also can cause emotional problems and irritability. Research shows that this is caused by the overworking of the amygdala, which is the section of the brain that controls emotion. “Sleep deprivation enhances negative mood due to increased amygdala activity and a disconnect between the amygdala and the areas that regulate its functions,” according to Psychology Today. 

There are a number of things you can do before you sleep and throughout the day that can support healthy sleep and prevent sleep deprivation.

Eating certain foods before you go to bed can help you sleep through the night. Foods packed with both proteins and carbohydrates, like cereal and milk, contain a sleep-inducing amino acid called tryptophan. Cutting caffeine intake can also improve your sleep quality. The Sleep Foundation recommends consuming no more than three 8 oz. cups of coffee a day.

Developing a consistent sleep routine before bed is another way to inhibit sleep prevention. The Sleep Foundation recommends taking at least 30 minutes of “wind-down” time before bed to help ease the body into sleep. Use this time to review your notes, read a book or even reflect on your day with some journaling.

Mindful meditation before bed is another practice that can lead to better quality of sleep. This practice involves intense relaxation of the body.  Harvard doctor Herbert Benson studied the relationship between meditation and sleep in the 1960s and found that meditation triggers a “relaxation response” that can help people who suffer from insomnia.  Although it can help you sleep, meditation is not a supplement for sleep.

Sophomore business management major Micah McNair said that he tries to be consistent in his sleep schedule, getting six to seven hours per night.

Should he snack or watch TV late at night, that messes up his schedule.

“If that happens, it will bother me from sleeping,” McNair said.

Whatever you do before you sleep, make sure give your cellphone and other electronics a break. These devices produce a light that affects the body’s circadian rhythms and melatonin production, which can make it harder to fall asleep.

Don’t be afraid to count some sheep and catch some ZZZs. Your body will thank you later!

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