It was World Sleep Day last Friday, a day to commemorate the importance of sleep in our lives.
But let’s face it, sleeping hasn’t been a priority in our lives, especially when our assignments are almost due or exam week is coming up.
But did you know that sleep deprivation has impacts on our learning ability?
Why is sleep important for our daily lives?
According to Sleep Health Foundation’s website, sleep is one of the three pillars of health, along with diet and exercise.
Inadequate sleep affects our learning and decision-making process, and is reported to increase the risk of mental and physical illness.
A report from Nature and Science of Sleep states that sleep deprivation has an impact on impact on learning, memory, grades, perception of effort, driving performance, and mood.
The report indicates that students who obtained more sleep (more than nine hours) had higher GPAs than the ones who obtained less (less than six hours).
Sleepologist Sveti Williams confirmed the fact and said that sleep deprivation compromises our process of learning new information.
“When we look at the brain in terms of learning and memory, we can identify a specific mechanism that has three functions: acquisition (the process when new information is introduced to the brain), consolidation (the process when a memory becomes stable) and recall (the ability to have that information accessed after it had been stored),” Sveti explained.
“Simply put, when we are asleep, our brain processes information and forms memory (consolidation process). When we are sleep deprived, our ability to learn and retain new information is impaired.”
Chronic inadequate sleep can also cause various health conditions, including heart disease, obesity and depression.
Yet a report from Sleep Health Foundation in 2017 estimated 39.8 per cent of Australian adults are experiencing some form of inadequate sleep.
An interview with a student from Melbourne University, Melati, proves that sleep deprivation is more common than you think.
“Since I’ve been butchering my sleeping pattern, my time to wake up or sleep fluctuates a lot, and it’s making my body confused!” she said.
“It holds me back from giving my 100 per cent during the day. It’s making it hard for me to concentrate, especially during lectures, discussions and my daily interactions. I tend to get moody,” she explained.
Another student from Melbourne University, Girvan, felt that sleep is not his priority as the desire to juggle his studies, activities (work, volunteer, etc.) and social life is more important to him.
He experimented with his sleeping habits and agreed that he also got mood swings when he didn’t have enough sleep.
“I used to do two-hour-naps four times a day. It didn’t work that well for me, since I was constantly tired,” he said.
So what is a ‘good’ sleep?
Sleepologist Sveti Williams has provided us a checklist to measure if you are having an appropriate amount of sleep:
- You are able to fall asleep within 15-20 minutes of lying down in bed.
- You are able to sleep for seven to nine hours.
- Your sleep is continuous and you don’t wake up during the night and struggle to fall back asleep.
- When you wake up in the morning, you feel refreshed, without the feeling groggy.
- During the day you feel alert and if you experience a dip in alertness, can return to full alertness quickly.
- During your sleep you do not display any disturbing or unusual behaviour such as snoring loudly, pausing the breathing, restlessness and other unusual night-time activities.
I have problems with my sleep, what should I do?
Sleep Health Foundation suggests you to talk to your General Practitioner or seek Sleep Specialists for help. They also have several tips for you to do in the meantime:
- Do not try too hard to sleep.
- Let sleep come to you when the timing is right.
- Keep a regular daily routine when possible, with consistent times for eating, sleeping and doing other things.
- Make sure you can learn or get taught some methods to relax.
- Realise that part of the reason why you don’t sleep well might be that you worry about sleep too much.
- Don’t blame every little thing that goes wrong on your poor sleep.
- Do not lie in bed awake for a long time. Give yourself about 20 minutes, then get up and go and sit in a quiet, dark room somewhere, not doing anything, until you feel sleepy again.
- Know that sleeping tablets are not as helpful as you might think.
- Also know that there is a chance that you might actually be getting more sleep than you think you are.
- Make sure you don’t have too much alcohol and caffeine.
Several useful links for you: