By Divya Venkataraman
At some point or another, we have all had to make a tough choice. We may think, ‘do I want to major in biology or chemistry?’ or ‘should I rent or buy this house?’; when faced with difficult decisions such as these, we tend to begin panicking.
In situations like these, one of the most common pieces of advice heard is: “sleep on it.” Yet, is this just another excuse to procrastinate, or is this actually a good idea that helps our mental well-being?
Truth is, this saying is one of the most accurate phrases one might say. In fact, a good night’s rest is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, improving attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can have horrible effects on one’s health.
Executive director of sleep medicine at Harvard University, Russell Sanna, Ph.D., believes that sleep and its importance cannot be overstated in the slightest. “If you’re having a problem in life or at work,” he tells WebMD, “analyze the problem and its possible solutions, [then] sleep on it before making a final decision.”
Unfortunately, sleep is often overlooked, especially among adolescents. In between extracurriculars, calculating our GPA, worrying about chances of getting into a college, developing social status and studying – for the SAT, ACT, AP Exams, finals and so much more – we also need to spend time eating, breathing and sleeping. So, which one do we cut out when we become swamped with work?
Well, cutting down on eating or extracurriculars will just save a couple of hours of the day. But sleep? If we cut down our sleep from the suggested 9 hours to about 4, we are gaining a whole 5 hours to work! Many students have admitted that they just need time for work: in the debate between time versus sleep, time often wins.
This is where the problem lies: the lack of sleep may gain you some time here and there — but in the long run, you’re actually taking away precious time in your future. Sleep doesn’t just help you feel good tomorrow but helps our brain and body function as a whole. While you are able to gain an extra 5 hours to work every day without sleep, you are actually impairing yourself in the future — the lack of sleep has been proven to lead to major physical health issues. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the link between sleep deprivation and chronic diseases has grown significantly — including a connection to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.
A lack of sleep doesn’t only affect one’s physical state, but the mental state as well. In fact, sleep deprivation leaves your brain exhausted, prohibiting it from doing its duties well. During sleep, your brain is rejuvenated; pathways between neurons in the brain form — allowing you to remember what you’ve learned — while REM sleep stimulates areas of your brain essential in spatial memory and learning. In fact, according to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School, out of 10,000 adults, those with insomnia are five times more likely to develop depression or anxiety. Additionally, they were also 20 times more likely to develop panic disorder.
A lack of sleep is not something to take lightly, having many negative effects on physical and mental health; we may be thinking in a short-term way because we want success now rather than later, but we should also look into taking care of our future.
The next time you are planning your day, try scheduling everything before a certain time to ensure that you are sleeping on time. The next time you are swamped with work, take a breath and manage your time properly. The next time you are faced with a hard decision, take your time to listen to one of society’s best advice and sleep on it.