A Dose of Healthy Sleep

Chloe Deangelis, Staff Writer

Sleep is an ingredient to health we all crave, though many of us do not get enough of it. There are copious ways that sleep impacts our well-being: in addition to refueling and healing our bodies, sleep helps us consolidate our memories. To stay healthy, it is necessary to maintain a sufficient sleep schedule. Students in middle school need nine to eleven hours per night, while those in high school should sleep 8.5 to 9.5 hours a night, and adults only require seven to nine according to HelpGuide.org.

The results of a survey in which fifty MacDuffie high schoolers were asked how many hours they usually sleep during weekdays showed that on average, MacDuffie high schoolers only sleep five to eight hours per night. When questioned, students explained that they sacrificed sleep hours for after-school activities and homework. MacDuffie, like any preparatory school, has always asked a lot of its students.

Staying up past twelve is the least of a student’s worries when there is a difficult test the next day. The benefits of staying up late to study seem to outweigh the risks. However, the lack of a healthy sleep schedule can affect more than just your attitude.

According to a Harvard University research article titled Healthy Sleep, the short-term effects of bad sleeping habits include relationship stress, lack of alertness (contributing to an increased likelihood of getting in a car accident), and memory loss.

An inconsistent sleep schedule is detrimental to the brain’s recovery process during sleep. Nevertheless, students tend to stay up late throughout the week, so they may be suffering from the long-term effects rather than short-term ones.

A continuously inconsistent sleep schedule has the capability to result in serious health problems and long-term effects. According to research done by Harvard Medical School, some of the most serious potential problems caused by sleep deprivation, most common in adults, are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.

According to the European Heart Journal, sleeping only five hours a night can negatively affect your heart. Staying up late to finish your homework does not mean you will have a heart attack, especially as a teenager. However, this is not to say that teens are immune from all serious health problems due to sleep; for example, the neglect of a regular sleep schedule over time can cause insomnia in some young people. The negative impact that these side effects’ can have on our cardiovascular system (and overall health) becomes enhanced as we age.

Tips to help you fall asleep:

  1. Stick to a regular sleep schedule (same bedtime and wake-up time) seven days a week.  
  2. Exercise at least thirty minutes per day (for as many days per week as time allows), restricting vigorous exercise to the morning or afternoon.
  3. Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine and stick to that routine every day. Make sure that this routine is realistic for your everyday life.
  4. Only go to bed when you feel tired, turn the clock around so you cannot see the time, and get out of bed if you are tossing and turning. If you must get out of bed, engage in a relaxing activity like reading a book.
  5. Do not ingest caffeine in the afternoon and try not to eat at least an hour before bed.
  6. Do not use electronics at least an hour before bed. If you have to use your phone, computer, or TV at night for work, do not use them in bed. Using electronics in bed before you intend on falling asleep makes your body associate your bed with entertainment and not sleep.

Many incorrectly believe that all sleep problems derive from lack of rest. In actuality, too much sleep has consequences as well.  Oversleeping is considered sleeping more than nine hours a night.

When it comes to sleep, you must find your body’s “sweet spot” for optimal health. Today, scientists continue to research the connection between sleep habits and overall health of the body. Sleep is a complicated factor of our health that we all need but unfortunately do not get enough of. It needs to be consistently regulated in order to avoid getting too little or too much. Everyone is different, so it is up to you to know yourself and your body well enough to tell when you need to slow down and rest or keep up with a consistent pace.