The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Living in servitude to a society that demands maximum productivity everyday (sometimes to an unattainable degree) can lead to misinterpretations of sleep as being inconvenient, idle and counterproductive. In other words, the importance of sleep is extremely undervalued. We’re all guilty of holding the paradoxical belief that it’s beneficial to wear ourselves down in the day and continue to grind away into the night, irrespective of rest. Unless you hadn’t already guessed – in reality, this will do the exact opposite of what you originally intended for.
As students, we engage in a perpetual battle with sleep. We constantly find ourselves combating the idea of a full night’s sleep, whether we’re staying up late, desperately trying to finish that assignment, or stumbling in from a night out at 4am. Although compromising sleep in favour of cramming in a late night study session sounds worthwhile, this mindset is actually very self-defeating.
Not only is a lack of sleep detrimental to our well-being in general, but it also adversely affects our studies. Researchers have demonstrated that sleep is one of the most powerful academic tools in aiding the comprehension and understanding of our learning. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conducted a study that involved measuring the brain waves of rats. They documented the cerebral activity of the rats, first in a maze, having to solve problems such as overcoming obstacles or finding the exit, and second, whilst they were sleeping. The discoveries were striking. Not only were the same brain waves generated during problem solving and sleep, but those recorded from sleep were 20 times as fast, indicating that their subconscious brains were rapidly repeating and examining the information they’d learnt so that performance in the maze the subsequent day improved dramatically. The rats were faster, more perceptive – they excelled.
Inferences from this research therefore imply that sleep is a vital part of memory and learning. When involving sleep into the matter of our academic studies, quality of work is infinitely more advantageous than quantity. Forcing yourself to work late into the night: are you really retaining all of the information or are you simply just reading it and tricking yourself into thinking that you’re accomplishing effective studying? Having a good night’s sleep may seem like a sacrifice to your work, but it’s actually the most rewarding thing you can do for your mind and your body.
Our entire physical and mental well-being is affected by our sleep cycles. Psychologically, sleep saturates your body with energy, allowing you to take care of yourself and your responsibilities, enhance your creative outputs and overall improve your productivity. Physiologically, the absence of sleep puts the body outside the internal state of balance, leaving us defenceless to illnesses without allowing our bodies to rest and repair.
So next time you’re considering staying up late to finish that lecture, just remember sleep isn’t your greatest enemy, it’s your greatest weapon.