Sleep is not for wimps! After reading a chapter of Bronson and Merryman’s Nurture Shock called “The Lost Hour,” I was amazed to learn why I have suffered. As a high school student, I have found it increasingly difficult to keep my motivation and suppress stress while the workload piles up and the lights don’t go down. Of course, it’s counterintuitive to go to sleep when there’s plenty more to do. Why not do today what could be done tomorrow?
Robbing sleeptime has become a nightly habit for many. However, new science has shown just how destructive this ever increasing human tendency is, not only affecting us emotionally and intellectually, but physically as well. For example, Nurture Shock tells us that “negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories get processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. This result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine.” The result: depression.
Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, from which all quotes are cited
Sleep is especially critical for children. In the past thirty years, the amount of sleep that teens and pre-teens are getting per night has plummeted, “half of all adolescents getting less than seven hours of sleep on weeknights.” With “a quarter admitting that their grades have dropped because of it,” there is conclusive evidence to show why. Not only does sleep loss stunt the body’s extraction of glucose from the bloodstream–specifically inhibiting the prefrontal cortex which administers the prediction of consequences to actions and “thoughts to fulfill a goal,” but it also debilitates the process of learning. During sleep, the brain performs many activities to process new knowledge, storing it to memory throughout all waves of sleep. This means that without enough sleep, we are not able to remember all that we have learned and we’ve just been wasting our time. We need sleep!
With regard to obesity, especially childhood obesity, sleep regulates our appetite, helps break down our fat, and gives us enough energy to do exercise in the day. “Sleep loss increases the hormone ghrelin, which signals hunger, and decreases its metabolic opposite, leptin, which suppresses appetite. Sleep loss also elevates the stress hormone cortisol,” which stimulates our bodies to make fat. Results from three different studies testing the effect of sleep loss on rates of obesity (done in Japan, Canada, and Australia) concluded that “kids who get less than eight hours sleep have about a 300% higher rate of obesity than those who get a full ten hours of sleep.”
Sleep has a cumulative effect. You miss 2 hours per night for 7 nights; you’re basically going without 14 hours of sleep! That is not good! Proof: “University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Dinges did an experiment shortening adults’ sleep to six hours a night. After two weeks, they reported that they were doing okay. Yet on a battery of tests, they proved to be just as impaired as someone who has stayed awake for 24 hours straight.”
We are all humans; we cannot elude the dynamics of cause and effect. So let’s get off our bums and go to bed!