The Truth About Sleep
It’s no surprise that most of us don’t get as much sleep as we would like. We consider it a luxury, something to look forward to and indulge in on the weekends. We take it for granted and skimp out on good rest for “one more chapter!,” or to cram for a test. Or, much more likely, squeezing in that last episode (or season) of your favorite Netflix show for the night. But the truth is that hitting that REM cycle is as much of a luxury as food and water. A solid night’s rest is not only important for our bodies to recuperate energy, our skin to rejuvenate, and our immune systems to reboot, but it is also critical for:
This study found that declarative memory (studied through a vocabulary test) is enhanced when sleep follows within a few hours of learning, independent of time of day.
This meta-analysis considers both the effects of acute total sleep deprivation and chronic partial sleep deprivation. They also go on to describe the effects on cognitive performance.
This study found that the measurements of both direct and indirect emotional empathy of participants in the sleep deprived group were significantly lower (meaning that they were less emotionally empathic) than the scores of the participants that slept.
Needless to say, these are crucial cognitive processes for learning and being a successful student. But don’t think that it’s just kids and students that need to keep their attention and decision-making in tip-top shape for their day-to-day lives.
Sleep: It Can Be a Matter of Life and Death
The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that drowsy driving is responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries every year. Sleep deprivation can have effects on your body similar to those of drinking alcohol! Think about that the next time you binge watch your Criminal Minds (who can resist Spencer’s sweet dorkiness?) . Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05.Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05. Click To Tweet
For reference, a BAC of .08 is the legal intoxication level in most US states. This BAC is enough to detain you if caught driving.
If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours and then drive—such as after a night where you just couldn’t fall asleep—it’s like driving while having a blood alcohol level of .10, which is considered legally drunk in all 50 US states.
The National Sleep Foundation
The National Sleep Foundation recommends specific amounts of rest for different age groups, though it’s best to find the optimal amount for your own personal needs, taking into account factors such as how much you exercise, what type of work you do, your diet, and whether or not you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
I recommend making yourself a sleep tracker. This way you can hold yourself accountable to your sleep debt and hopefully create better sleep habits.
With all my support,
Author: Stephanie Ortega
Stephanie is a behavior analyst and tutor with over a decade of experience in helping children. She creates planners and worksheets for the organizer within us all, maintains a blog, and runs two start-ups. She’s also a doodler and puppy and cat mom who enjoys travel and learning new things.