School, especially by the time you get to year twelve, can get pretty hectic, and for a lot of students, sleep is one of the first things to drop off the to-do list. Occasionally, when you really don’t have much choice, staying up late to finish an assignment won’t be the absolute cause of your demise. But consistently poor sleep can seriously affect your health in the short and long term. So treat sleep as a priority!
As a student, one thing that is super important is your memory. For the HSC you need to remember crazy amounts of content, but if your strategy for doing so involves staying up late studying, you might want to rethink. It is during sleep that short term memories are consolidated into long term memory, so skimping on sleep will decrease your ability to retain information and function well at school. A study showed that after a week of getting only four or six hours of sleep, memory function and reflexes were similar to that of people who hadn’t slept for 48 straight hours, though they often reported not even feeling very tired. What this means is that, even when you don’t perhaps feel the effects of depriving yourself of sleep physically, they are making an impact on your brain and mental function.
Not only is getting a good sleep important for memory, it is vital for your immune system to function as best as it can. Sleeping well can also reduce your chance of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as increase your life expectancy in the long term (wowee). Whilst long term health conditions probably aren’t your priority as a teenager, it is important to know that there are serious health risks to poor sleeping habits, and forming a good relationship with sleep while young can help keep you healthy for life. Good sleep also helps to regulate the hormones which control your appetite, so you don’t feel as hungry and will help you make healthier diet choices.
Sleeping is so important for your physical health, but it is also very influential on your mental health. We’ve all had a bad sleep and been grumpy and miserable the next day (or the next couple days if you’re anything like me) so it is not surprising that the science suggests that lack of sleep is actually linked with depression and anxiety. I know that for me, I can go from completely happy one day to anxious and extremely emotional the next based entirely on the amount and quality of sleep I’ve had.
It’s important to remember though, a lot of things could be causing feelings of anxiety or depression, so if you feel like you’re struggling in anyway, please reach out to a friend, parent, trusted teacher or one of the great online resources. If you are having serious trouble sleeping, regularly struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night, you may be struggling with insomnia. There are treatments and approaches to help with this so it’s definitely worth talking to your GP about. You don’t have to keep suffering through another restless night!
Good sleep habits are crucial to you being your happy, healthy self so make sure that you are treating sleep as a priority, not a luxury! It is going to help you to feel your best and do your best so please, please – go to sleep!
By Lydia Fagen