Sleep: the new miracle drug

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Natalia Gevara, Staff Writer

With the new year comes promises of change and many resolutions that are, more often than not, short lived. Although 45 percent of Americans make a New Year’s resolution, according to the website “Statistic Brain,” only eight percent of Americans actually end up keeping it.

Many people blame their lack of resolve or willpower on a variety of factors, such as lack of time or procrastination. However, one factor that plays a key role in successful goal setting is often overlooked: sleep.

According to the “National Sleep Foundation,” only one in five adolescents frequently gets nine hours of sleep on school nights;  more than half of adolescents report feeling too tired or too sleepy during the day.

To students, getting a full nine hours of sleep can seem rather unattainable, and is often not looked at as a first priority when it comes to balancing school, sports, and other extracurricular activities. However, with the benefits that come with a good night’s sleep, the time to prioritize is now.

Weight loss, or attaining a better diet, is the most common resolution people seem to make, but often do not end up keeping.  In research presented at the American Heart Association’s 2011 Scientific Session, it was shown that women who got only four hours of sleep at night ate an additional 329 calories the next day than they did after sleeping nine hours, and men consumed an additional 263 calories.

“When I don’t get enough sleep at night, I end up skipping breakfast, and I eat a lot more during lunch and dinner to make up for it,” sophomore Mariah Macato said.

Getting up early for school isn’t easy for students when running on insufficient sleep, and it can be incredibly difficult to remain productive in school when the body is in need of rest. The body isn’t at its full potential when struggling to stay awake.

“I haven’t had a lot of sleep lately, so I’ve been falling asleep in class, and I’m always tired when I play basketball,” freshman Diamion Brown admitted.

“On Saturdays, I have practice in Livermore for track, and it’s difficult; if I stay up late it has an effect— I can’t do as well at practice,” junior Steven Hill said.

To some people, these effects are looked upon as minor and manageable. However, according to a study published in the journal “SLEEP,” people who routinely get fewer than six hours of sleep a night are 12 percent more likely to die over a 25-year period than people who sleep between six and eight hours a night.

Sleep also has an effect on self-control and behavior in adolescents. A new study published in “Journal of Youth and Adolescence” suggests that sleep deprivation can ultimately result in teens being unable to adequately manage their own behavior.

“If I don’t get enough sleep, I get migraines, and I have anger issues,” sophomore Gabriella Gomez said.

In studies by Harvard Medical School, it was concluded that getting at least eight hours of sleep helps with learning and memory. Part of the restorative nature of sleep helps transport memories from short-term to long-term storage and attaining a sufficient amount of sleep a night helps the brain obtain new information through memory consolidation.

With the harmful effects that come with sleep deprivation, pledging to making a sleep resolution this year can truly change the lives of many.

“There is a false sense of belief among patients that they can get by on four or five hours of sleep,” Dr. Alon Avidan, M.D.,MPH, a professor of neurology and the director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center tells the Huffington Post, “We know that sleep deprivation is dangerous.”

Although sleep may not always seem like the most important factor, especially when attempting to manage a hectic schedule, it’s clear that putting sleep first is beneficial.

“Improving sleep during that night time can really can be very effective in improving quality of life in the daytime,” Avidan said.

Whether your New Year’s Resolution is to eat healthier, get better grades, or just live life to its fullest, the first step in achieving that goal is getting the right  amount of sleep.