The Significance of Sleep

FullSizeRenderBy Brittany Dingler '15, Peer Health Educator

In his June, 2013 Ted Talk “Why Do We Sleep,” Russel Foster – a circadian neuroscientist (think Bernie Possidente) – passionately fights for the importance of sleep not only as a resource for refreshing ourselves between action-packed days but also as preserving and enhancing our overall health and well-being.  More specifically, Foster digs in deep to the necessary effects of dozing-off, such as the stimulation of certain genes related to restoration and others that aim to conserve energy.  Foster also discusses how crucial cognitive processes tied to productivity require sleep, such as enhanced creativity and problem-solving ability.  This idea addresses the paradox of sleep for college students who spend their nights in Case Center (after being thrown out of the library) studying and writing papers that take away precious hours of sleep, when in fact sleep that is extremely essential to encoding the names and structures of amino acids or writing the sequel to The Fountainhead.

Doing your best to maintain a consistent sleep schedule by getting up at the same time every morning (even on the weekends, if possible) and starting to wind down around the same time in the evenings, can help to maximize energy levels during the day and improve your quality of sleep at night.  Additionally, creating an enjoyable and calming bedtime routine is an effective way of distancing yourself from the stressors of the day and preparing for a restorative slumber.   Lastly, to improve sleep quality at night, the Peer Health Educators recommend exercising early in the day, cutting off caffeine before dinner, and swapping out your electronics for a book so as to not disrupt the pineal gland’s normal, bedtime secretion of melatonin (essentially, the sleep hormone).  Although incorporating all of these changes at once may seem overwhelming, you’re likely to feel better after a few days with even just setting one or two goals for your sleep schedule.  Until then, get some rest and put down your iPhone.

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