Sleep Deprivation

A to-Zzzz – Why Sleep Truly Matters
By Lisa Van de Ven

Looking for a remedy to help with poor school performance? Are you experiencing weight gain, acne and sad-looking skin? Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a medical breakthrough with a new good-for-everything drug. The answer, experts say, is good old-fashioned sleep. While pulling all-nighters to study might seem like a great idea at the time, it’s proven that sleep might be exactly what you need to ace that exam or essay and improve your appearance at the same time!

Brain Power
“Counter-productive” is the word that Dr. Raymond Gottschalk – director of the Sleep Disorders Clinic of Hamilton, ON – uses to describe those all-night study sessions students are known for. In fact, he says, “Choosing not to study might earn better results than going without sleep.”

Sleep is necessary for crucial brain behaviour. It helps set your memories into place, turning short-term into long-term memories. It’s also critical to concentration, and integral to imagination and original thought. All of which come in handy, whether you’re struggling to finish a math assignment or an English essay.

“Often you want to perform, but your performance is worse,” says Dr. Judith Leech, sleep physician at the University of Ottawa. “It might take you six hours to write that essay, but it would have taken you three hours if you were crisp with sleep.”

Beauty Sleep
Sleep isn’t just a brain enhancer; it’s a beauty tool as well. Who likes dark circles under their eyes and pallid, sallow skin? The stress that sleep deprivation has on your system, Dr. Gottschalk continues, has also contributed to acne problems. Not to mention the effects it can have on weight gain. “Two things happen with sleep deprivation,” he says. “One of them is that it increases a hormone called, ghrelin, and ghrelin makes you hungry and it decreases leptin, a hormone which tells you when you’re full.”

The result:
You eat too much. In addition, the fact that approximately 28% of teens are too tired to exercise is a sure-fire equation for weight gain.

The Internal Alarm

Despite the importance of sleep, studies have shown that today’s adolescents and young adults might be at a disadvantage when it comes to getting enough sleep. That’s because everyone has an innate circadian rhythm that changes with age. “For young adults,” says Dr. Leech, “that natural alarm clock tends to be set for a late bedtime and late wake-up – a sleep cycle that may last, for example, from around 2 a.m. to noon.” Pesky things like early class times, get in the way of natural cycles, which could explain why you’re sluggish in the morning, but unable to get to sleep at night.

While some high schools in the United States have successfully experimented with later start times to compensate, most Canadian schools still start classes early. This means you’ll have to take measures into your own hands: both doctors suggest reducing caffeine intake and minimizing television, cell phone and computer use before going to bed. Diffusing the lights towards the end of the day might help fool your mind into thinking it’s time for sleep. So, turn off the gadgets, dim the lights and snuggle your way into a peaceful night of authentic beauty sleep.

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