To Sleep or Not to Sleep

There are only twenty-four hours within a day and for some of us it is not enough time. Often, we sacrifice our sleep to complete certain tasks. Even though, productivity is high, our bodies, and minds eventually suffer due to the lack of sleep.

World statistics show that out of a study which consisted of 48 countries, none of them managed 8 hours of sleep. For instance, Japan averaged about 6 hours. Other countries that averaged just about 6 hours are Saudi Arabia, India, Sweden and The Philippines. Although, these countries are highlighted for sleep deprivation, it is a common issue worldwide; from students trying to meet deadlines to jetlag. It affects all of us.

Director of the Systems Neurobiology Laboratory at the University of Toronto, John Peever and the director of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, Brian J. Murray stated that, during sleep the body rejuvenates and the brain clears itself of unnecessary data, which prepares it for learning and memory retention. The lack of sleep effects your short-term and long-term memory. Therefore, pulling an all-nighter before a big exam may not be the best idea.

According to a Forbes article entitled 7 Ways Sleep Affects The Brain (And What Happens If It Doesn’t Get Enough) the writer states that the RAND Corporation conducted a study on sleep deprivation and the economy, which stated that the corporation estimated the U.S loses $411 billion each year due to employees being unwell and unable to work as a result of sleep deprivation. Researchers have found that sleep and the human immune system are connected. While asleep the immune system produces cytokines, which defend the body against harmful bacteria. Therefore, if the body is deprived of sleep, it cannot defend itself efficiently.

It has been reported that people who do not sleep enough are prone to high blood pressure, mood swings, weight gain and diabetes. 

            Sleep helps blood to regulate stress hormones and maintain a healthy nervous system. The constant lack of sleep hinders this process and subsequently, leads to high blood pressure and other health issues.

            Studies show that there is a connection with sleep and mood. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania discovered that people who only obtain 4.5 hours of sleep a night for a week tend to be mentally exhausted, angry and depressed. Persons diagnosed with insomnia suffer with depression and anxiety. It is possible that this is due to the circadian rhythm, which regulates your body’s sleep/wake cycle.

            In addition, sleep deprivation can cause weight gain and diabetes. It affects leptin and ghrelin levels, two hormones that control hunger and fullness. Without enough sleep your the the ghrelin hormone rises and increases appetite. This potentially leads to frequent late-night snacking. Being too tired to exercise, the body gains weight and increases insulin.

            Now, that we are aware of the detrimental effects sleep deprivation has on the human brain and body, how can we prevent it? Here are a few suggestions.


Before bedtime:

·     Turn off your electronic devices at least 45 to 60 minutes prior.


·     Try to have physical activity during the day as it increases the chances of better sleep.


·     Do not eat close to your bedtime and avoid spicy, citrus foods and alcoholic drinks. Alcohol does tend to make you more relaxed, but it can affect the quality of sleep. For instance, you can wake up feeling drowsy or disoriented as though you had not slept.


·     Nap during the day but limit your nap times to between 15 and 30 minutes. Students often become mentally fatigue and it is advisable to take naps to reenergize the brain.


·     Avoid caffeine leading up to bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant and can possibly keep you awake. Use caffeine as early as possible as it takes almost 12 hours to completely leave your system. 



·     Eliminate all light as it effects melatonin levels.


·     No pets in bed.


·     Turn cellphone alerts off and turn on the emergency feature. This feature allows certain contacts to reach you in case of emergency.


·     If you are restless and cannot fall asleep find a restful activity like reading (not E-books) or meditation.


In conclusion, sleep is an activity that is essential to a healthy life. Therefore, it is necessary to have between 7 to 8 hours of sleep. “Your future depends on your dreams, so go to sleep.” – Mesut Barazany.