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.

IV. What can you do to increase your quality and quantity of sleep?

  1. Move your alarm clock out of sight. In many cases, getting anxious about your lack of sleep freaks you out, and makes you less likely to fall asleep and get quality sleep. Reduce this risk-- move your alarm clock out of sight.

  2. For the three hours prior to sleep, stay away from artificial blue light as it hinders the production of melatonin, and makes it harder to fall asleep. On most phones, there is a setting for yellow light, which does not have the adverse effects of blue light. Put your devices on night mode prior to bedtime.

  3. Aromatherapy is sensual and evocative, and scents such as lavender and chamomile can evoke fatigue and relaxation. Perhaps buy a diffuser, and enjoy these relaxing scents.

  4. Wear socks. This sounds crazy, but socks can help regulate your body temperature, which will help both and falling asleep, and the quality of sleep.

  5. Avoid eating before bed. Although we are all guilty of midnight snacks, eating before bed is linked to indigestion. This increases discomfort, thence decreasing the ideal sleep environment, which decreases the quality of sleep.

Although these tips will undoubtedly increase your quality of sleep, what happens if you need to go to sleep promptly? Well, the following techniques are designed for just that.

V. Techniques for falling asleep quickly.

A. The military technique: This technique is commonly used by those in the military, who need to fall asleep in the most pressing of places.

  1. “Feel for the small, hollow space under your palm on your pinky side.

  2. Gently apply pressure in a circular or up-and-down movement for 2 to 3 minutes.

  3. Press down the left side of the point (palm facing) with gentle pressure for a few seconds, and then hold the right side (back-of-hand facing).

  4. Repeat on the same area of your other wrist” (Healthline 2020).

If this technique doesn’t work, here is another relaxation technique. When adequately practiced, it can be used for sleep induction.

B. The 4,7,8 breathing method: This method acts as a tranquilizer for the nervous system, which when practiced, can be used to relieve tension and fall asleep.

  1. “Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.

  2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of 4.

  3. Hold your breath for a count of 7.

  4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of 8.

  5. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

  6. Tips: Ideally, sit with your back straight. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. Exhale through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward” (Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine 2020).

VI. Effective sleeping:

In this day and age, especially during the school season, it is more important than ever to get an adequate amount of sleep. You should be sleeping 8-10 hours daily; which will reduce physical illness, improve cognitive function, and increase the quality of life.

Happy sleeping :)

Works Cited

Chaput, Jean Chaput Philippe, and Caroline Dutil. "Lack of Sleep as a Contributor to Obesity in Adolescents: Impacts on Eating and Activity Behaviors." NCBI, US. National Library of Medicine, 2016, Accessed 23 Dec. 2020. doi: 10.1186/s12966-016-0428-0

Weil, Dr. Andrew. "4-7-8 Breath Relaxation Exercises." Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine,, 1 Feb. 2010, Accessed 23 Dec. 2020.

Yuen, Christal. "How to Fall Asleep in 10, 60, or 120 Seconds." Edited by Deborah Weatherspoon. Healthline, 12 May 2020, Accessed 23 Dec. 2020.