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Catching Zzz’s

How can sleep improve your quality of life?

Experts say getting the right amount of sleep contributes to energy, productivity, memory, concentration, and overall physical health, and growing evidence suggests college students are particularly likely to skimp on sleep, not realizing the dangerous effects.

“It is very important to get sleep,” said Dr. Saimir Thano, a CSUN University Counseling Services psychologist. “It plays a repetitive role, psychologically as well as physiologically. It helps the brain create hormones that help new pathways for concentration and memory, and it sort of plays the role of a battery re-energizing our body. At times, it has been found that sleep produces certain hormones to fight common illness and help organs rest.”

A study published in the current issue of The Sleep Journal said people who sleep fewer than six hours per night are more likely to catch colds than those who sleep seven hours per night, and reach what experts call full rest.

“The goal is every night to get into REM sleep,” said REM Sleep Labs’ Angie Simon. “There are different sleep cycles, but if your body does reach REM sleep, then you’re getting that good quality sleep that you want. However if you have a sleep disorder, the sleep disorder will stop you from getting to that REM sleep.”

The first part of REM sleep lasts about ten minutes and the final part may last up to an hour, according to The Better Sleep Council. People don’t feel well rested if they don’t get REM sleep.

“The best route is to weigh out all your options and figure out what exactly is hindering your sleep and why you need assistance to sleep better,” Simon said. “The best way to figure that out is by getting properly diagnosed by getting the test done in a sleep lab.”

According to the National Sleep Foundation, untreated sleep disorders can cause heart disease, stroke, depression and diabetes.

“Depending on the person, some individuals may need more — some less — but on average research recommends seven to eight hours — nine at the most — but different individuals may need different amount of sleep,” Thano said.

‘Early to bed’ actually is good advice: experts say every hour of sleep between the hours of 9 p.m. and 12 midnight is equal to two hours of sleep after midnight.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says the best way to increase performance on final exams is to study the day before, and then get a good night’s sleep.

“Studies have shown that those individual students that do overnighters, their GPA tends to be lower in general, and that’s because the brain needs to rest, and when it does, there are new pathways for memory and attention,” Thano said. “When you cram and do everything in one night, your brain is not able to create those new memories…It is best for students to study during the day versus the night before.”

The National Sleep Foundation has found that while asleep, people have the ability to combine different experiences in the parts of their brain that generate problem-solving skills.

“When you are getting good sleep your overall well-being is better,” Simon said. “[Sleep] makes you want to exercise, it makes you want to eat healthier, you feel better about yourself, and you are not as sluggish.”

“Everyone should use the bed only for sleep and sex, and nothing else,” Thano said. “If you’re studying in bed, or lying and just watching Netflix, then your body gets used to it, [and you say to yourself] ‘this is what I do in bed; I watch and read and do other things.’ Taking that away really makes a difference.”

 

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