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Healthy Minds Healthy College

Are you getting enough sleep?

September 9, 2014

With so many things demanding our attention these days, its wishful thinking for many of us to get six let alone eight hours of sleep at night.

But the benefits of regular sleep, from concentration to memory, are hard to beat — and no, caffeine isn’t a substitute!

Dr. Russel Foster is a circadian neuroscientist in Oxford, England and studies the complicated intricacies of sleep and brain functioning. In his TED talk presentation Why do we sleep? he says one of the biggest problems is that society doesn’t value sleep and that large segments of the population are sleep-deprived.

Watch his TED talk for more insight into why we need sleep or read some of the highlights from his talk below.

Fast Facts

  • The average person will spend 36 per cent of their life asleep. If you live to be 90-years-old, you will have spent 32 years sleeping!
  • In the 1950s, people were getting an average of 8 hours of sleep. In 2013, the average person was getting about 6.5 hours with many people clocking just 5 hours of sleep a night.
  • At some point in their life, 31 per cent of drivers will have fallen asleep at the wheel due to sleep deprivation. Scary!
  • People who get 5 hours or less of sleep every night are 50 per cent more likely of being obese.

Why do we sleep?

Studies have found that sleep enhances our creativity and our ability to process information and problem solve. In fact, some areas of the brain are more active during the sleep stage than during the awake stage!

Sleep deprivation can lead to

  • poor memory
  • impulsiveness
  • poor judgment
  • irritability/moodiness
  • stress
  • worsen symptoms of mental health issues

How to tell if you’re sleep-deprived

  • if you take a long time to get up in the morning (think about how many times you hit the snooze button)
  • need lots of stimulants throughout the day to stay awake
  • grumpy, irritable
  • your classmates, colleagues or friends tell you that you look tired

Tips for improved sleep

  • try not to have any caffeine after lunch
  • reduce your amount of light exposure 30 minutes before heading to bed (turn off your phone and computers)
  • make your room as dark as possible
  • ensure the temperature in your room is cool