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Sleep: More Important Than You Think

Sleep: More Important Than You Think

That snooze you took in math class? It wasn’t the prof’s fault, even if you found the material uninspiring. According to The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, if you feel drowsy during the day—even when a class seems boring—then you haven’t had enough sleep. How much is enough?

If you’re like most people, you probably need between seven to eight hours a night. However, some people need as little as five and others as much as 10. NINDS makes it clear—whatever you need, you really need, and if you’re sleepy during the day, you’re not getting enough. You might adjust to feeling sleep-deprived and be able to deal with it for a while, but the damage is still being done—to your judgment, reaction time, basic functioning and long-term health. College rituals like late-night pizza fests and Spring Break party marathons not only pile up credit-card debt, they also create what experts call “sleep debt.” And unless you make sensible decisions, you could find yourself paying off both debts for years to come. Know Your Sleep Facts

1. Don’t doze and drive. According to William Dement, M.D., Ph.D. of the Stanford University Center of Excellence for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Sleep Disorders, 55 percent of sleep-related driving fatalities occur to those under the age of 25. Also, research at Stanford found that people who were tired because of disrupted sleep had reaction times that were as poor as subjects who were legally drunk!

2. Take care of your body. Dr. Eve Van Cauter of the Research Laboratory on Sleep, Chronobiology and Neuroendocrinology at the University of Chicago found that lack of sleep changes your hormones in ways that stimulate appetite. Another study from Columbia University looked at over 6,000 people and found that the less you sleep, the greater your risk of obesity. People who only slept two to four hours per night had a 73 percent greater risk of obesity than those who got seven to nine hours. Even a little sleep debt hurts—getting five hours increased obesity risk by 50 percent, getting six hours increased risk 23 percent.

3. Sleep on it. Researchers at The University of Pennsylvania found that sleep-deprived mice didn’t recall what they’d learned the day before. Similar results have been found with humans. Cramming the night before an exam doesn’t help. Without sleep, you won’t remember what you studied and your grades will likely suffer.

4. Keep the doctor away. Researchers at UCLA found that sleep loss compromises the immune system and the body’s inflammatory response. Your white blood cells actually behave differently after one night of interrupted sleep. People with long-term sleep debt have a higher risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and arthritis.

5. Get your beauty sleep. Growth hormone (GH), which is responsible for infant, child and young adult growth, helps regulate metabolism and promote healing as an adult. GH is secreted during deep sleep, so sleep deprivation makes it harder for your body to repair damage. Low levels of GH may even lead to some extra wrinkles as we age.