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Prioritizing Sleep

How much do you value sleep? At what cost do you protect your daily sleep time? Studies show that people who sleep more tend to live longer, have healthier lives and be better and happier people all around. You probably have a very busy life and need “downtime” to relax, unwind and spend time with friends. This can happen at the expense of sleep because many people crave the quiet privacy of a late night after a long day at school. When you think about all the day to day activities you juggle, (classes, homework, exams, socializing, sports, chores, part-time jobs, etc..) getting to bed early enough to get 8 to 10 hours of sleep can seem pretty hard. Unfortunately, not getting enough sleep each night can have a major impact on your health as well as performance in school.

How much sleep is really needed? Everyone has heard the general advice that people should get at least eight hours of sleep per night, but the amount of sleep people need varies depending on their age group. According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, eight hours of sleep a day is the minimum amount for good health, we should really get up to ten. Thinking about “catching up” on the lack of sleep during the school week? Or sleeping on the weekends until mid morning, or lunch? Well the Canadian Pediatric Society also advises against playing “catch up” on the weekends, and emphasizes that getting those 8-10 hours of quality sleep daily is the only way to reap the benefits of sleep.

When you get a great night’s sleep, you feel ready to tackle all the challenges a new day brings. But this is not the only reason to get the recommended amount of daily sleep. Teens who get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep every night are more likely to see benefits that include improved grades, better memory, lowered risk of obesity, decreased chances of getting sick, and improved mood. Students who get enough sleep reap these benefits, however those who don’t are risking serious consequences. How would you know if you’re getting enough sleep? You may need more sleep if you’re having difficulty waking up in the morning or having trouble concentrating throughout the day. Other signs include falling asleep during classes, and feeling moody or even depressed.

Sleep is an important part of your daily routine; you spend about 1/3 of your time doing it. You may you may think that getting enough sleep is not importantNeuroscientists have concluded that without enough sleep, you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories. A lack of sleep makes it harder to concentrate and respond quickly. Research shows that when you don't get enough sleep it can lead to these consequences: struggles in school, trouble with memory, decreased motivation, a higher rate of accidents and sleepiness, and feeling depressed, which can become a serious medical condition.

Although these are some medical causes of sleepiness, most sleepy students are just having too many late nights or are not practicing good sleep hygiene. What’s sleep hygiene? Just like there’s a recommended technique to washing your hands, there’s a recommended way to sleep. These recommendations include:

  1. Setting a schedule, including the same time getting to bed and waking up.

  2. Leaving the last few hours before bed without exercise.

  3. Avoiding caffeine-related drinks before bed.

  4. Relaxing before bed, like using a warm shower, reading, or another relaxing routine.

  5. Avoiding bright lights and loud sounds, keeping the room at a comfortable temperature, and not watching TV or having a computer in your bedroom.

  6. Don’t lie in bed awake. If you can’t get to sleep, do something else, like reading or listening to music, until you feel tired.

Getting enough sleep is as essential to survival as food and water, impacting our lives in more ways than one. If we value the importance of sleep, we’d make a bigger effort to prioritize it. All of us need 8 to 10 hours of sleep daily and if we maintain this, we can have a happier, healthier life.

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