By Ashley Chee & Bryan Soo, GIS Students
It is always a blur, from the moment the school day ends to being tucked in – enraptured in a deep lulling sleep. Sleep, without doubt, is our favourite pass time activity. Even without fully grasping what sleep does for us, we know that insomnia and a bad night’s sleep will make us feel groggy and disorientated. Adequate sleeping doesn’t only allow the individual to lose themselves from reality, it is also an active period in which the brain consolidates memories. Throughout the day, numerous amount of facts and details are taken in by our brains. We tend to think that this information will be magically stored in our heads permanently; however, this isn’t the case. The truth is, before these facts are registered into our cerebrums, it will go through a process and this happens when we sleep. Studies have shown that after people sleep, they are more inclined to retain more information and perform better in tasks which involve remembering. Sleep also acts as a pit stop for our body to recharge and rejuvenate, ameliorating our immune system and metabolism.
So how much sleep do we actually need? Before answering this question, let’s talk about some science behind our sleep! As we sleep, we go through cycles. Within each, there is what we call non-REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, and then REM sleep. Non-REM sleep has 4 stages with stage 1 and 2 as the ‘light sleep’ stage, and stage 3 and 4 as the ‘deep sleep’ stage (our heart rate slows and brain outputs slow delta waves). REM sleep is when our brain activity spikes up and dreams begin to occur. Each cycle takes roughly an hour and a half. On average, humans have a six 90-minute cycles every night. With this being said, we can now conclude that humans need at least 9 hours of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers are recommended to fall asleep for 8 to 10 hours. Everyone has individual sleep needs, however, having an extreme polyphasic sleep routine; or in simple words, sleeping at 2 am every night is an undesirable idea. As students who retain information and learn skills to thrive in life daily, it is critical for all of us to get sufficient amount of sleep to enliven us all day. Unfortunately, sleep can’t be treated as a ‘debt’ thus individuals can’t just accumulate sleep deprivation and then register the amount of sleeping hours needed to make up for it.
While sleeping less might seem to be just a lifestyle choice, studies have shown that a chronic lack of sleep can lead not only to poor performance and decreased productivity, but also significant health consequences such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Therefore, we would like to share some sleeping tips and habits as non-sleeping ‘specialists’ to all of you who may or may not have difficulties sleeping. Firstly, ensure the environment you’re sleeping in is cool, noise-free and free from any light. This tip may sound obvious however it is one of the main contributors to a bad night’s sleep. Consider using blackout curtains, eye masks, earplugs, humidifiers, fans and other devices if an ideal environment for sleeping isn’t achievable. Another habit we have is exercising regularly. It is proven that doing physical activity frequently helps you sleep better – as long as you don’t get it in too close to bedtime. Furthermore, we have night time rituals in order to signal our brains that the day is over and it is time to start thinking about rest. Just as a morning routine can help you build some productive momentum for the day, a night time routine is designed to disengage our brains from tasks that require a high amount of mental activity. Many people have their methods of winding down, but the following list are a few rituals you could follow:
Lastly, stop using your phones and laptops to stalk your best friend’s aunt’s daughter! To quote Mark Sisson’s in-depth article on how light affects sleep: “Blue light regulates our secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Exposed to blue light, we limit the production of melatonin, and we stay alerted and awake; in the absence of blue light, melatonin production ramps up, and we get sleepy.” For us, the most distracting thing is browsing our Instagram feeds and checking our Snapchat stories, to simply avoid this complication we turn off our phones and computers once we are ready to start winding down. If you can’t turn off your computer for some reason, at least block access to distracting sites with an extension like ‘StayFocusd’ or you could also reduce the temptation to start sending Snapchat ‘streaks’ by using an app named ‘Forest’.
Through this article, not only did we want to help you identify where there may be a fault in your sleep schedule but to, more importantly, portray what big fans and avid sleepers we are. We think this article is a great testament to that, delving into the world of science to pin that tail on the donkey as to how we actually sleep and why we may have trouble sleeping. Sleeping provides a safe environment for dreamers to dream and for those dying to get a move on to the next day, sleep helps to refresh your body to conquer the world. So the next time you’re staying up until 2 am cramming in for an assessment, just think, ‘am I not supposed to be in bed?’. Although you would probably continue to study, it is important to feel guilty about it later and make changes so that you don’t find yourself in the same situation in the future.