The Importance of Sleep, and Sleeping Effectively

“Research has found that 73 percent of high school students regularly do not get a healthy amount of sleep” (Healthline 2020).

This statistic shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing that chances are-- you are one of the 73% of high school students who sleep in a deficit. Don’t be fooled, however, by the common-hood of the plague of insomnolence (consistently lacking sleep). A daily amount of 8-10 hours of sleep is necessary for functionary and motor skills. This article will detail the detrimental nature of insomnolence, and provide tactics and strategies to increase sleep quantity and regularity.

So, with that,

I. Why is sleep important to mental health?

Both biologically and practically, sleep is quintessential for basic functioning. At night, the brain “re-sets” it’s neurochemistry, and releases hormones that are crucial for well-being.

These hormones include:

  1. Growth hormone - Which repairs tissue and catalyzes bodily growth

  2. Antidiuretic hormone - This stops the dilution of urine/ prevents peeing at night. Lack of sleep - Increases nocturnal urination, which disrupts the quality of sleep.

  3. Melatonin- Regulates your sleep-wake cycle, and manages the consistency in your circadian rhythm.

  4. Oxytocin - Influences the content of dreams - occurs 5 hours into sleep

  5. Prolactin - Has over 300 functions, including metabolism regulation and immune system support

Sleep allows the brain to re-calibrate, sustain, and process information from the day-- forming it into meaningful Long-Term Memory (LTM) and neural pathways. Although not felt on a biological level, adequate brain re-calibration enhances learning, problem-solving skills, creativity, decision-making, and attention span. All of these processes are essential to success in school and life, which is why inadequate sleep tarnishes the quality of existence.

Yet, what about your bodily functions? Does sleep impact those?

II. Why is sleep important to physical health?

Along with mental deterrents, lack of quality sleep is also linked to an abundance of physical implications.

  1. Without the secretion of the growth hormone, blood vessels and tissues are not given the chance to repair themselves. Reparation of the heart and blood vessels is crucial to health-- with the deficiency linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.

  2. These, in turn, increase the risk of obesity.

  3. “For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well” (NIH 2016).

  4. Sleep is crucial for maintaining hormones and neurotransmitters; many of which are indisputable in physical importance. For example, the hormones ghrelin and leptin are thrown off-balance when sleep is inadequate. Ghrelin correlates with hunger and the latter for fullness. Thus, when you don't get enough sleep, your levels of ghrelin increase, and levels of leptin decrease. This makes you hungrier than usual, which leads to an increase in body mass, i.e; obesity.

III. Why teens have it worst:

Fluctuations in circadian rhythms differ with age, which is why it makes sense that teenagers fall asleep later than younger children and adults. There is a biological reason as to why teenagers stay up later, as their circadian rhythms are in-sync differently than those in other age groups. Teen circadian rhythms peak later in the 24-hour cycle, which is why teens aren't fatigued until the late hours of the night. Coupled with early wake-up times and schoolwork, the odds are against us when it comes to getting adequate sleep.