Hello all! This is Katie - taking on writing this spring break blog post so the WIT Peer Educators can take some time to rest, relax and refresh; to press pause if you will.
Is it just me or has this semester seemed really long already?
Now, I know you’re halfway through spring break, but I want to be sure you’re all getting some things done this week. It may seem counterintuitive to have a spring break to do list, but trust me… you’re gonna want to make sure you do some of these things!
Spend time with friends/family - Our social wellness has taken a hit during the pandemic. With more time spent in our rooms and in a virtual world, we’ve lost opportunities to just be in spaces with people. Take some time to be with people you like.
Sleep - Seriously, get some sleep! The WIT Peer Educators have plenty of blog posts on why sleep is so important if you need any reasons to sleep more.
Do something you enjoy - Haven’t read a book for fun in awhile? Haven’t binged the newest Netflix series? Whatever it is (cooking, painting, video-gaming, puzzling, crafting, running, hiking, fishing, dancing, driving, singing….). Now’s your chance!
Unplug - Getting away from technology, especially social media and the 24 hour news cycle can be super cleansing. Maybe go for a walk or call a friend instead?
Whatever you do for the rest of spring break, please take some time to rest.
By: Katie Jourdan, Student Health Promotions Coordinator (and a big fan of resting!)
Permanent link for Can Lack of Sleep Significantly affect One's Physical Well-being? on March 3, 2022
Spoiler: it can.
Have you ever woken up late and been unable to do everything you wanted to do in the day? Finding yourself staying up late on your phone watching Tik Toks? While these activities seem fun at the moment, they negatively impact more than just your energy, they can affect your body, too. Prioritizing your sleep routine can benefit your personal fitness goals!
Your body without sleep: Hungry!
While it is true that sleeping is our body’s way to rest up the brain, sleep gives a deep meaning to our body’s physical health as well. Previously mentioned in last week’s blog, neurotransmitters give our brain signals. Two of them, called ghrelin and leptin, tell our brain how hungry or full we are. A study done by the National Library of Medicine (NIH), tells us that a restriction of sleep, or sleep deprivation, can raise our ghrelin and leptin levels, causing us to get hungrier. The study also concluded that we tend to choose calorie-dense foods that are high in carbohydrates when we’re sleepy and hungry. Now, carbohydrates are really good for our body - they are our body’s preferred source of energy - but the problem is, the study shows we tend to choose fatty foods for our carb fix with lots of less healthy fats, such as pizza, donuts, fries, etc. when we do not get enough sleep.
Other ways sleep affects the body and your fitness goals
- Helps muscles rebuild at night (think muscle repair after a workout)
- Lowers blood pressure, giving your heart and blood vessels a break
- Increases motivation (which is important if you’re trying to stick to routine!)
- Supports your immune system
- Allows for a steadier blood sugar level in the deepest sleep (which helps lower risk of type 2 diabetes).
So if you’re lacking sleep, you’re missing out on all these benefits!
A step in the right direction
Reading all this, it may be overwhelming to think what is happening to your body with too little sleep, but you can make a change and get more sleep if you want! For example, I personally just found out about google calendar and now like to incorporate my sleep schedule into each day. Giving yourself an idea of when to go to bed and how much sleep you will get is very useful! And,the biggest piece of advice I have is setting a specific amount of time to put your phone away before bed. The Tik Tok video will still be there when you wake up. This has become especially helpful for me being, that I would always be on my phone late trying to chase the next helpful or funny video, but what I realized was, the most helpful thing I can do is go to sleep on time; because waking up late and having to risk missing a class is not the funniest thing in the world.
If setting up a calendar a week in advance or putting your phone away an hour before bed seems like too much, then take baby steps. Maybe just plan a day out. You can put your phone in a place where you cannot reach it before you go to bed. What can also help is figuring out how many hours of sleep your body needs. Testing different amounts of sleep and seeing how your body reacts can be handy. This gives you a plan for how many hours you want to set aside to sleep.
Sleep to access the gains
When you go to sleep early, it gives your body strength to take on the day! It leaves more time to cook, say yes to healthier food options, and even prevent obesity. Make sure to get the proper amount of sleep so that you can make the best choices for your body and chase after your fitness goals (or just feel better physically). For more information on the benefits of sleep, how to get better sleep, and sleep in general, be sure to check out our other blog posts about sleep.
By: Emilio Espinosa, WIT Peer Educator
I can never sleep before the first day of school. The night before my first day of 6th grade, I remember tossing and turning; the nerves and stress about the day ahead take over any exhaustion in my body. This happens to me every year and most of us have been there. But for many, it's not just the night before the first day of school or a big test, it's every night.
People of color are less likely to get 7 or more hours of sleep due to several racist factors. This creates a gap, or inequality, in sleep. Sometimes, in order to truly see the seriousness of this issue, it helps to see a visual (see Fig. 1). The CDC conducted a survey where they asked 444,306 American adults about their sleep patterns. The results are alarming; 34.5-46% of non- white adults were getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night with higher percentages of those that identify as Black or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
Race and Sleep: The Facts
To put it plainly, white people tend to get more (and better) sleep than people of color. The gap is increased even further between the wealthy and the poor. This gap is due to race, income, and status. These factors intersect easily and cause an enormous amount of stress, which ultimately affects sleep, health, and overall well-being.
Place of residence, work schedule, and job strain, amongst other factors, play the biggest roles in the racial sleep gap.
- Place of Residence: In a study of around 33,000 participants, researchers found a direct correlation between sleep loss of African American and Hispanic people who live in inner-city areas compared to people who live in non-urban areas.
- Work strain: Due to discrimination in the workplacework place, African American and Latinx Americans are more likely to work unconventional hours and are about three times more likely to experience job related stress. Non-white people have to work harder, smarter, and faster to get to the same point as a white person. This is an exhausting, everyday battle that decreases healthy sleep patterns and not only increases the sleep gap, but contributes to many other health issues.
- Financial stress: People of color are less likely to be considered for higher level jobs due to discrimination in the workplace, which keeps them in lower income brackets. When most of the monthly income is spent on food, shelter, and water, other necessities get put on the back burner For example, healthy, organic foods tend to be more expensive or not available in certain areas. If a person has a low income and/or lives somewhere with less access to nutritious foods, it is much harder to find wholesome options. This can cause increased health problems including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Additionally, working two jobs may be a necessity for those in lower income brackets, leading to working more hours, increased stress, and inevitably less sleep
- Unequal Access to and Quality of Medical Care: Disparities in access to care have a broad effect on health outcomes for minority groups. For example, conditions like sleep apnea may be less likely to be diagnosed or effectively treated, or people may be less likely to discuss sleeping problems with a doctor.
Why is Sleep Important?
Sleep is important because it allows the body and mind to repair and prepare for another day. Sleep allows the brain to function correctly, helps the body fight diseases, and is an important part of keeping your heart healthy.
There is a direct link between long-term sleep deprivation and health problems. As fellow WIT peer educator, Stella, notes in her recent blog post, “a poor sleep schedule can have very real, negative effects on people. Physically, you are at risk of a weakened immunity, weight gain, and heart-related problems such as high blood pressure and stroke. Maybe not so obvious, poor sleep is strongly linked to many mental disorders. It can impair your abilities to make decisions, cope with stress or change, and control emotions. These effects wreaked havoc on my life, and I didn’t even realize it was happening for so long!”
Lack of sleep targets your central nervous system, immune system, respiratory system, digestive system, cardiovascular system, and endocrine (hormone) system. When these body systems are out of tune, many serious health problems can occur, including:
- Memory and concentration issues
- Mood changes
- Weakened immune system
- High blood pressure
- Low sex drive
- Heart disease
People of color experience these health problems at higher rates already, and they tend to experience even less sleep because of these health issues.
Wake Up and Smell The Racism
Sleep is so important. It re-charges us, mends us, and gives us a much needed break from the craziness in our lives. While all humans deserve a good night's sleep, not everyone gets the chance with the inequalities that exist. The racial sleep gap is a public health issue, and the United States needs to do more to close it.
Understanding individual privilege and educating yourself on inequality, in all areas, is the first step. If you have the privilege of sleeping well each night, you can use your waking hours to raise awareness for sleep inequality. But how can you do this? By having impactful conversations with others who may not know or understand what the sleep gap is, supporting businesses owned and products made by people of color, and/or doing more research on inequality in America. Next time your head hits the pillow, you may think about things much differently.
By: Annie Seeber, WIT Peer Educator
I never realized how important sleep was until I started getting enough of it. A good sleep schedule can quite literally change your life! My freshman year at GVSU was rough; as a light sleeper the dorms were like my personal hell. Most nights I would only get a few hours of restless shut-eye; during the day I found myself falling asleep at inopportune moments and feeling dazed the rest of the time.
A poor sleep schedule can have very real, negative effects on people. Physically you are at risk of a weakened immunity, weight gain, and heart related problems such as high blood pressure and stroke. Maybe not so obvious, poor sleep is strongly linked to many mental disorders- it can impair your abilities to make decisions, cope with stress or change, and control emotions. These effects wreaked havoc on my life- and I didn’t even realize it was happening for so long!
Some of the biggest negative impacts of poor sleep affect your memory and ability to learn. Kind of important being students and all wouldn't you say? Did you know that basically the whole reason we ever remember anything is because we sleep? While sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day by sorting and consolidating information into your long term memory. Sleep is absolutely necessary in order to learn and remember information!
Ok, So What Should I Do?
First step is to get enough sleep. The average college student gets about 6-6.9 hours of sleep each night. For any functioning adult, a bare minimum of 7 hours is needed and, unless you are part of the 1% of our population that has an exceedingly rare genetic mutation, this includes you! Some people need 9 (or more!) hours.
Secondly, you’ll want to maintain a fairly regular sleep schedule. This means you should try to go to bed and wake up around the same time everyday. An irregular sleep schedule can be just as bad as not enough sleep since it messes with your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is like an internal biological clock that lets your body know when it should feel sleepy or awake. Do you ever wake up and just feel exhausted all day? You are probably suffering from irregular sleep.
Tips & Tricks to a Good Night’s Rest
How can you change your habits in order to get better sleep?
- Consider setting alarms on your phone to start establishing a sleep schedule. This means a wake-up alarm and a bedtime notification. Apple products have this function built into the clock app.
- Try to relax before bed. Don’t do any crazy activities and then try to fall asleep! Read a book or try a nighttime meditation
- Make your space comfortable. A cool, dark, quiet space is best for sleep. I use a sleep mask and, when I was living in the dorms, sound-cancelling headphones (my savior). Now I turn on a box fan or use the Relax Melodies app for some white noise.
- If you have trouble falling or staying asleep consider a melatonin supplement; something to talk to your doctor about.
- Speaking of doctors; don’t be afraid to approach your doctor if you are having an issue with sleep. Many suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea. (Learn more about the many types of sleep disorders at the Sleep Foundation’s website).
- Caffeine might get you going in the morning, but it should be stopped 4-6 hours before bedtime in order to avoid the adverse effects caffeine has on sleep.
Better Sleep = Better You
As mentioned, better sleep means better physical health, less sickness and stress, better memory storing, and improved coping skills. Studies have also found that better sleep is associated with better academic performance in college students- so by getting enough sleep and maintaining a regular sleep routine you can be healthier, feel more motivated, and do better in your classes! Happy sleeping!
By: Stella Sterling, WIT Peer Educator
It comes as no surprise that getting a good night’s sleep can lead to a better quality of life. Although, more often than not, college students admit to be lacking in their quality of sleep… let’s not even talk about finals week. If you find yourself relying on all-nighters, we have some news for you. College students who pull the occasional “all-nighter” are actually more likely to have a lower GPA. Sleep is essential to achieving higher grades.
If your energy levels are lacking or you feel like you aren’t at your peak performance, lack of sleep could the reason. Feeling less alert is often caused by your weekly sleeping habits. Specifically, this could be how you “make up” for your lack of sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine even advises those who stay up late during the week and “make up” for their lack of sleep by sleeping in over the weekend that they are actually doing more damage. Sleeping in late on the weekends, which a lot of people do, sets off your internal body clock. This begins to damage your sleep habits when trying to wake up for morning classes again the next week.
Even so, putting off sleep throughout the week can cause adverse effects the longer that you do so. In a recent study, “every additional day per week that students experience sleep problems, their cumulative GPA lowered by 0.02.” In addition, the likelihood of the student dropping a course increased an average of 10% every day.
On top of lack of energy and affecting your GPA, not getting enough sleep can weaken your immune system. As a student, attendance is essential to academic success. Becoming more susceptible to a cold, or even the flu, can take a toll on your body (and your attendance). By getting enough sleep, your immune system will keep performing as it should and leave you less exposed to sickness.
So, what does this all mean?
Sleep is extremely important, and it isn’t something you can just “make up” for, either.. In fact, college students (18-25 year olds) are recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
Now, what can you do to promote better sleep and productivity?
Make a habit of going to bed early. This means turning your mind off about 30 minutes before bed by stopping homework, turning off the TV, and putting down your phone for the night.
- Only sleep in your bed. Watch TV, read, and do homework from the couch. Keep your bed just as a safe haven for sleep.
Set an alarm for when it’s time to go to bed. That’s right; you should remind yourself when it’s time to unwind. Set a daily alarm so you don’t get stuck studying and realize it’s already 2am.
Stay consistent on the weekends. It’s okay to sleep in an extra hour if you’re looking to catch up on sleep, but don’t allow yourself to sleep through your entire day and completely set off your internal clock.
Eat a light snack before bed. Don’t overeat or allow yourself to go to bed hungry, as both can cause you to toss and turn at night. Balance it with a light snack if needed.
By: Alexis Smith