Many of us are familiar with the after effects of a night or two without sleep. Without sleep, we are less efficient and more irritable. It may even become difficult to think clearly. 63% of college students do not get enough sleep, according to a recent study by the National Sleep Foundation. Obviously, Sleep deprivation is a way of life for most students, especially during exam times. 15% percent of college students admit that they fall asleep in class. Students who studied hard all week and then stayed up all night partying on the weekend lost as much as 30% of what they had learned during the week. This is not a problem only seen in college students. Much of society suffers to some extent from sleep deprivation.
Most students do not get enough sleep because their sleep hours changed based on their workload. Other reasons students don’t sleep include stress, roommates, or miscellaneous noise. Most students don’t realize they are lacking sleep. It comes out in other ways – frequent illnesses, general fatigue, increased anxiety and impaired concentration and memory retrieval. When students are asked how much sleep they get, they don’t realize that they get sleep deprivation in little bits. They get 3 hours of sleep one night, 5 the next, 4 the next night. Night after night of this takes its toll. Sleep deprivation can lead to sleep apnea, a breathing disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea affects as many as 18 million Americans.
If you are sleep deprived, you may notice one or more of these signs:
The best way to overcome lack of sleep is to practice good sleep hygiene. The Northern Indiana Center for Sleep Medicine suggests the following:
Other suggestions from the Sleep Diagnostic Clinic at Stanford include:
In extreme cases, prolonged sleep deprivation can produce hallucinations and even death. These situations are extreme and not often seen, but possible due to a weakened immune system. The number of white blood cells within the body decreases, as does the activity of the remaining white blood cells. The body also decreases the amount of growth hormone produced. The ability of the body to metabolize sugar declines, turning sugar into fat. One study stated that people who sleep less than four hours per night are three times more likely to die within the next six years The longest a human has remained awake was eleven days. In the lab, rats that are continually deprived of sleep die within two to five weeks. This is generally due to their severely weakened immune system.