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Get Some Z’s to Get Some A’s

We’ve all heard it before: getting enough sleep is important. Sometimes though, it’s hard to resist pulling an all-nighter when we’ve got a big exam to study for. What most people don’t realize however, is that they may actually be doing themselves a disservice because sleep is required for memory consolidation. New research shows that declarative memories (like a series of facts) benefit from getting some shut-eye. But the benefits of sleep go far beyond memory consolidation; it keeps our immune systems active and healthy, and can also balance our appetites by helping to regulate levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which play a role in our feelings of hunger and fullness. So when we’re sleep deprived, we may feel the need to eat more, which can lead to weight gain.

But what exactly is it about sleep that is so critical for our bodies to work properly? According to the National Sleep Foundation, each stage of sleep has a different role in body function. Sleep is characterized by two main stages, NREM (75% of the night) and REM (25%).

During NREM:

  • Blood supply to muscles increases 

  • Tissue growth and repair occurs 
  • Energy is restored 
  • Hormones are released, such as: Growth hormone, essential for growth and development, including muscle development 

During REM:

  • Brain is active and dreams occur 
  • Provides energy to brain and body 
  • Supports daytime performance 

So how much sleep do we really need? A good rule of thumb is between 7 and 9 hours, but certain individuals may benefit from more or less than this.

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Sarah Smith is a junior at the University of Michigan, Class of 2012, majoring in Communication Studies and Political Science. She is the Editor-in-Chief of The Forum, Michigan's Greek Life Newspaper, and the secretary of Michigan's chapter of Ed2010. Sarah is also an active member of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, and she currently serves Michigan's Panhellenic Association as the Vice President of Public Relations.  A native of Sterling Heights, MI, she has been a Michigan fan since birth and loves spending Saturday mornings cheering on her Wolverines. Some of her favorite things include The Office, Audrey Hepburn, women's magazines, and microwave popcorn - preferably with lots of butter and salt!
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