The Daily Gamecock

Social life, academics nothing to lose sleep over

Many of us are guilty of forgoing sleep in order to complete homework, cram more hours into studying for a test or go downtown to Five Points. Most think that the only side effect of consistently missing sleep is feeling groggy the next day. However, there are many long-term side effects associated with sleep deprivation, effects that five pumpkin spiced lattes are not going to fix.

Sleep is important for many reasons beyond feeling refreshed in the morning. It is directly attributed to mental health and physical health, both impacting a person’s quality of life and enjoyment of life. Consistent sleep deficiency can impact both forms of health in a vastly negative manner.

Sleep is a vital role in regulating brain health and emotional health. While asleep, the brain conducts memory consolidation, turning short-term memories into long-term memories by forming neural pathways. In addition, being well-rested allows additional alertness, the ability to pay greater attention, improved decision-making and increased creativity.

Because of sleep’s necessity, its deficiency can alter the brain in harmful ways. Those with a sleep deficiency will notice a decrease in alertness, attention and decision-making. Memory becomes increasingly impaired, reducing the ability to process information. In emotional aspects, the ability to cope with stress diminishes, and mood swings become normal. The onset of depression and suicide have been linked to chronic sleep deprivation.

Sleep is also an important factor in physical health. Growth, development, repair and maintenance all take place during sleep. With diminished abilities for the body to repair itself and the risk of life threatening diseases increases, such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Robbing your body of sleep will also interrupt your body’s cyclical release of hormones, which can cause a variety of adverse effects. For example: Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for increasing appetite. Sleep deprivation causes the levels of ghrelin to increase, and lowers the levels of leptin (appetite suppressing hormone). A joint study between the universities of Stanford and Wisconsin determined that the amount of body fat a person has correlates to the amount of sleep they receive nightly. Another hormone affected is insulin. Sleep deficiency causes elevated levels of blood sugar, leading to an increased risk for diabetes.
A study involving 1,125 students showed that only 30 percent actually slept the 8 hour daily recommendation while 35 percent reported staying up until 3 a.m. at least once a week. Weekend sleep marathons will not make up for a week of deprivation, only months of healthy rest will.

It is important for students to manage their time properly, designing their schedules to allow them the proper amount of sleep. Otherwise, there are short- and long-term consequences that will cause harm in at least one way or another.