Sleep, it seems like college students can never get enough of it. I am certainly not an exception to that. Even during my days in Elementary school, I could never get enough sleep. Every night I find myself getting less and less sleep. The older I got the worse this has gotten.
The most amount of sleep I can remember getting is eight hours, and that was very early in my childhood. I would say probably around the age of nine or 10. Once I hit 11 I noticed a steady decline in the amount of time I was sleeping. I went from a solid eight to around a decent seven. By the time I started high school I was averaging five hours of sleep per night. Which is only three hours less than when I was nine however, it still had a huge impact. I constantly found myself struggling to stay awake in class, fighting the urge to rest my head on the desk and pass out. Sometimes, I did fall asleep in class and this tremendously affected my grade.
Eventually, I decided that it would be best to just try to sleep on the bus ride to school. This definitely helped a little however, it was still a fight to stay awake. I noticed a lot of different emotional changes as well. I was easily irritated, and my anxiety was also heightened. I didn’t really understand why- I still don’t. Flash forward to today, I am struggling to get 5 hours of sleep. I noticed, occasionally I do not sleep at all. Typically, the weekends are when I find myself getting the most sleep. On the weekends I can sleep close to eight-12 hours, which is a drastic change from the barely five I get during the week. Nonetheless, I still feel deprived and drained even after eight-12 hours of sleep.
Sleep deprivation can be very detrimental in many different ways. Microsleeps are just one of many detriments that sleep deprivation causes. Microsleeps are periods of sleep that only last a couple of seconds during wakefulness. After only missing, one night of sleep people can develop microsleeps. There is an abundance of other issues that can be caused by missing one or more nights of sleep. Each of these issues can affect people differently and have negative aspects to them. These issues can include disturbances in mood, reaction time and/or complex motor skills. In addition, people who miss one or more nights of sleep can also experience disturbances in mental abilities and/or perceptual skills. That’s a lot for only missing one night of sleep (Hockenbury & Nolan 2018).
Furthermore, if you get four hours or less of sleep your concentration and memory can be weakened, along with your reaction time. When your motor skills are weakened you are at greater risk of being in a car accident. Similarly, getting 4 hours or less of sleep can have negative impacts on your mood (Hockenbury & Nolan 2018).
Additionally, changes in hormone levels occur, these changes are very negative. For example, an increase in stress hormone levels. These hormone levels increase because the chemicals that are in charge of sleep also help to lower stress hormones (‘How Does Stress Affect Sleep?’). The immune system is also compromised; therefore it is easier to catch colds or get infections. Your metabolism can also be negatively affected, as stated by Hockenbury and Nolan these “…[include] changes linked to obesity and diabetes.” Changes like that can very negatively affect your health and well-being. Equally, people who get little sleep tend to eat more. Eating more causes said people to gain weight in a very unhealthy manner. As a matter of fact, sleep deprivation can cause you to make less healthy food choices, consequently causing you to eat high-calorie food like cake or french fries. The opposite can be said about people who get a good amount of sleep per night (Hockenbury & Nolan 2018).
Looking at sleep deprivation has helped me realize my negative behaviors. The nights I haven’t been sleeping have been greatly impacting me, more so than I originally thought. I thought that I was fine and that missing a night or two of sleep was fine, and that I’d eventually make up the sleep I had missed. This ideology is wrong. Looking back, I can even notice some of these negative impacts. Especially, when I look at the nights I get four or fewer hours of sleep. I have noticed changes in my concentration, as compared to on the weekends when I get more sleep. I feel on the weekends I am more focused and can achieve more, whereas during the week I can really struggle. This is due to the fact that I am sleep deprived. I also noticed that I am more likely to eat unhealthy foods during the week, as opposed to the weekends when I get more sleep. I have also noticed some changes in my metabolism. This could be purely coincidental since these changes started very early on. However, I started noticing sleep deprivation at a young age so it could also be a consequence of my sleep deprivation or it could just be a result of how my body works and functions.
I still, however, have a few unanswered questions. First and foremost, what is the best way to change my sleeping habits? I know they are dangerous and causing me to falter but what is the best first step to getting back on track? Why does this happen? Why does not sleeping have such a negative effect on the brain? Is it because the brain is almost like a computer and needs to reboot? Or is it something different? Can I ever get back on the right track or are these negative effects permanent?