“Sleep is God. Go Worship!”
In a 2007 survey about depression, anxiety and sleep, Skidmore’s Department of Health Promotion found distressing information about the student body’s mental health. The survey, to which one-third of the students responded to, reported that 65.2% of students often had trouble falling asleep and only 25% of students got eight or more hours of sleep per night.
Of the students who reported having trouble falling asleep, 86.6% said “anxiety, worry, or stress,” were the main deterrents of sleep. Jen MacDonald, the Director and Victim Advocate of the Department of Health promotion, said that poor academic performance and sleeping less were “found to be highly correlated with” depressive symptoms (p<0.01) . Though this survey is now from a decade ago, sleep deprivation remains a highly prevalent issue in students’ daily lives.
According to Dr. Russell Foster, a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford, most of us in the post-industrialized world are sleep-deprived. The correlation between the quality and quantity of sleep and a healthy life has been verified. Yet, students often perceive it as a weakness, as an unproductive human behavior, as an utter waste of time. With the invention of the light bulb in 1879, Thomas Edison allowed humans to violate the natural dark-light sleep cycle and regard sleep as a kind of illness that ought to be cured. In fact, Edison said sleep was “a heritage from our cave days.”
Scientists, philosophers, and psychologists have long strived to comprehend the neuroscience and psychology behind sleep, coming to no consensus. Why does sleep matter? Why do we spend one-third of our lives on something that appears to serve no purpose?
Due to the fact that our energy metabolism is reduced by approximately 10% when sleeping, some believe that we sleep to maintain energy. Others think sleeping serves as a vacuum to clear our minds, restoring and repairing everything we undergo during the day. Similarly, some believe that we sleep in order to relive our day, allowing our minds to process it. Additionally, a group of scientists believe that sleeping helps us develop, organize, and consolidate our memories. For all we know, all, none or a combination of these theories could be true.
Additional research concurs with Dr. Foster – people sleep relatively less than they did in the pre-industrialized world. Professor Mary Carskadon of Brown University says, “Teenagers now average about two hours less sleep in a night than they did 80 years ago.” Unfortunately, we know very little about something we spend one-third of our lives on. We conjecture certain myths seeing that scientifically, not much has been proven.
These myths surrounding the idea of sleep are fatal to our health. Since we regard sleep as an enemy, we often do not let our brains rest and wind up making poor judgments. Even worse, we manipulate our brains with nicotine, caffeine, or alcohol when it cries out for sleep. Certain genes are active solely during sleeping and, therefore, avoiding it causes stress. However, sleep deprivation does not only conclude in stress or lack of energy; it also causes accidents, leads to severe health issues, and could potentially increase the risk of death. Unsatisfactory quality and quantity of sleep result in memory loss, extreme amounts of stress, weight gain, and poor judgments. In other words, avoiding sleep or being sleep-deprived result in a tangled web of calamities.
Spending one-third of our lives asleep indicates its great importance to our well-being. It is crucial for modern generations to acknowledge sleep as a biological necessity, one that helps us stay healthy. Sleep is neither our enemy nor an illness – it is our sustenance. It is as important to us as oxygen and in fact, it is the mental oxygen of our species. As Jim Butcher writes in Death Masks, “Sleep is God. Go Worship!”