Do you get enough sleep? Most americans will answer no to that question. It was found that one out of every three Americans do not get enough sleep (CDC, 2016), but why is that, why are Americans not getting enough sleep and why is it so important for us to get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night? In our lesson book Applied Social Psychology, Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems, by Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, in chapter 8, mentions that lack of sleep can lead to many negative health consequences (Schneider, et al., 2012).
There are several serious factors to why we need to get enough sleep, and the leading factor is our health. There have been several studies done on sleep deprivation and its effects on the human body. A study by Medic and et al found that there are serious consequences both short- and long-term health consequences. They found that a short-term consequences are that people had increase in stress, somatic problems, reduced quality of life, memory problems, behavioral problems, emotional distress (Medic, G., Wille, M., & Hemels, M. E., 2017). The long-term consequences that they found included hypertension, weight-related issues, metabolic syndrome, irritability, fatigue, and long-term depression and anxiety (Medic, G., Wille, M., & Hemels, M. E., 2017).
Sleep is important not only for our mood but also our brain function and systemic physiology across many body systems. But why are Americans sleeping less than ever? There are numerous factors to why we sleep less; it has been found that for many Americans electronic devices may be one of the big contributors to lack of sleep (2018). The reason being is that the blue light from these electronic devices delays your body’s internal clock, known as your circadian rhythm. The blue light suppresses the release of your sleep-inducing hormone known as melatonin, and this leads to you having a harder time falling asleep. But getting enough sleep is not only a lifestyle matter–it can also be caused by environmental factors, such as jobs, schools, and etc. As a college student, we often find ourselves drowning in homework, plus trying to socialize, and on top of that trying to live a healthy lifestyle, which includes getting enough sleep, but that is not always possible. A study by Shelley D Hershner and Ronald D Chervin found that daytime sleepiness, sleep deprivation, and irregular sleep schedules are very common among college students, up to 50% of students have daytime sleepiness and 70% of students do not attain enough sleep (Hershner, S. D., & Chervin, R. D., 2014). College students experiencing a lack of sleep this can experience lower grade point average, impaired mood, increased risk of academic failure, compromised learning, and increased risk of motor vehicle accidents (Hershner, S. D., & Chervin, R. D. ,2014). Why are so many college students not getting enough sleep? Some of the reasons can be because of increased stress, pulling all nighters, night owl habits. So what can college students and other people do to get more sleep?
There are several ways to improve your sleeping schedule and sleep quality. Here are some examples below.
- Turn off electronics about 20 to 30 minutes before sleep .You can keep your phone, laptop and other electronic devices on your desk to prevent yourself from being tempted to look at it if it was on your night stand.
- Reduce blue light exposure; as mentioned before, blue light suppresses the release of melatonin.
- On the other hand, increase bright light exposure during the day, which lets your body know when its day and night and your natural clock (circadian rhythm) can help keep a healthy schedule.
- Reduce nap time, because when you nap during the day you might find it harder to sleep at night.
- Try not to consume caffeine late in the day, since this can lead to difficulty when trying to sleep during the night.
- Try to make a “sleep and wake” schedule, which can help with making a healthy sleeping pattern.
- Make your bedroom only your bedroom; in other words, only use your bedroom to sleep. This will subconsciously train yourself to think that the bedroom is the sleep area.
- Have a wind-down period at the end of the night, put all electronics away and relax and clear your mind in the evening.
- Make time for homework, pulling an all nighter is very tiring and bad for you health, so make time during the day to do your homework.
Hopefully some of these examples can help with sleep deprivation, but it is important to note that there might be an underlying issue to why someone might have a hard time sleeping at night. Usually, if someone has been experiencing long-term sleep deprivation, there might an underlying medical issue (Medic, G., Wille, M., & Hemels, M. E., 2017).
CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2016) 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep: A good night’s sleep is critical for good health. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html
Hershner, S. D., & Chervin, R. D. (2014). Causes and consequences of sleepiness among college students. Nature and science of sleep, 6, 73-84. doi:10.2147/NSS.S62907. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4075951/
Medic, G., Wille, M., & Hemels, M. E. (2017). Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nature and science of sleep, 9, 151-161. doi:10.2147/NSS.S134864.Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5449130/
National Sleep Foundation (2018) Why Electronics May Stimulate You Before Bed. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/why-electronics-may-stimulate-you-bed
Schneider, F., Gruman, J., & Coutts, L. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.