Why You Need to Prioritize Sleep

According to the highly acclaimed neuroscientist Russell Foster tells us that sleep should be our number one priority. In his TED Talk, Foster tells his audience that he and his colleagues have found is that sleep is imperative for proper brain functioning. Foster warns that not getting enough sleep can be dangerous. In the United States, 100,000 driving accidents a year in the US are attributed to sleep deprivation. He says, “The critical thing to realize is that if you don’t sleep, you don’t fly”. In case dying in a car crash doesn't scare you enough into putting down that Civ reading (because Providence has the WORST rules on having a car on campus), not only does Foster tell us that we need sleep to function normally, but what is more is that mental well being and sleep are linked in our brains. Neuroscientists have found that in mental illness there is an enormous amount of sleep disruption. In a study on schizophrenia, it was found that schizophrenics had altered sleep patterns of being asleep during the day and awake at night. The genes that are linked to schizophrenia, when mutated also effect genes associated with sleep. Sleep disruption precedes mental illness. Prior to diagnosis, mental illness patients have already reported bad sleep. The importance of this discovery is that early intervention for mental illness is possible, making sleep a therapeutic target. 

Foster says, we need sleep in order for our brains to have the ability to process information, build memories, and have creativity. Creativity, you know that thing that helps you BS papers on books that you didn't read. Despite the strong evidence showing that we need sleep in order for our brains to function at their full capacity, Foster says that, “We have treated sleep as an illness” and that most people are sleep deprived. In 2013, the average for how many hours of sleep adults were getting was 6.5 hours when the average that is necessary is 8. Foster warns that the recommended eight hours per night for adults is only an average. Some adults may need more and some people need less. Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain as well as increased stress that has been shown to impair your immune system leading to cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes. Foster says that if you need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, caffeine to stay awake, or your co-workers say you look tired, you are not getting enough sleep. What Foster recommends is that you make your bedroom a sleep haven. Before going to bed reduce light exposure at least 30 minutes before you intend to be asleep, turn off your phone and other devices, and avoid caffeine after lunch (this will probably be the hardest thing to incorporate).

As college students, our schedules are extremely busy. Each class that you go to costs a lot of money. You want to get the most for your buck, so get enough sleep so your brain is functioning at its full capacity. Next time someone says, "You can sleep when you're dead" send tem the link to this article. Unless these side effects of not getting enough sleep sound appealing to you, start prioritizing your day so you can get to bed at a reasonable hour. If that means you need to cut out your one hour Netflix break, then so be it. Overall, when it comes to sleep Foster says to just listen to your body. 


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