Nadine’s Winning Essay
A sip of coffee. Frantically typing an essay. Time: 1:00am. A sip of coffee. Typing continues. Time: 2:00am. A sip of coffee. Typing continues. Time: 4:00am. A sip of coffee. Typing slows down. Time: 6:00am. Finally finished and time to sleep. Time: 6:30am. Alarm set for class: 7:00 am. This was my sleep schedule during my sophomore year of high school. The year consisted of one to two hours of sleep a night. I undervalued the importance of sleep and millions of students today also undervalue its importance. To students, sleep is burdensome and takes away valuable time to study. However, as a society, we must change this dominant idea among students and highlight the crucial importance sleep has on our daily lives. Sleep is not a luxury but a necessity a student must prioritize for their health and wellbeing. Sleep has an essential role in the human body: it maintains cognitive function and also plays an important role in physical and mental health.
Cognitive Function is defined as high-level mental abilities including learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem-solving, decision making, and attention (Fisher, 2019). Students must use their cognitive function daily to retain and process new information. However, if a student is constantly neglecting the recommended sleep length of seven hours, their cognitive functioning is sacrificed as well. David F. Dinges, Ph.D., Professor and Chief of the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, states that “We know, for example, that sleep is critical for waking cognition—that is, for the ability to think, to be vigilant and alert, and sustain attention. We also know that memories are consolidated during sleep…” This explains why students who have consistent healthy sleeping schedules tend to perform better: the information they learned throughout the day is more strongly consolidated in their brains. I noticed this during my sophomore and junior year of high school. My sophomore year was filled with ‘all-nighters’ and a sporadic sleeping schedule. Instead of receiving higher grades from all the late-night study sessions, my grades plummeted. However, in my junior year, I decided to take on a healthier sleeping schedule. I aimed for seven hours each night and made 11:30 my bedtime. My grades increased so drastically that I even became the salutatorian of my graduating class. The reason for this drastic change was due to my sleep schedule. As my schedule became more stable, I was well-rested enough to retain the information in my class. My cognitive function of attention, reasoning, problem-solving, and remembering would be strong enough to aid me in exams. Additionally, with my stronger cognitive functions, I could more effectively study for exams in a shorter period. Therefore, allowing me to excel in my exams.
Additionally, sleep plays a crucial role in physical and mental health. Sleep has an intense impact on the physical health of the human body. A consistent lack of sleep is like an accumulation of sleep debt that can lead to crucial health problems. It can lead to severe conditions such as obesity, difficulty in coordination, hypertension, and even diabetes (Pevzner). Physical health, of course, is important for every individual for bad physical health can lead to even more detrimental illnesses and can also significantly shorten a lifespan. Therefore, to protect ones’ self from any physical illnesses they must make sure they have a consistent sleeping schedule. Additionally, just like in physical health, sleep plays an essential role in mental health. According to Harvard Medical School, sleep and mental health are closely connected. Harvard Medical school discovered that any sleep problems may increase the risk of developing particular mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression. A longitudinal study of about 1,000 adults ages 21 to 30 enrolled in a Michigan health maintenance organization found that, compared with normal sleepers, those who reported a history of insomnia during an interview were four times as likely to develop major depression (Harvard Medical School). I noticed this trend throughout high school. During weeks where I got an average of six hours of sleep, the following week I would have an array of emotions of anxiety, depression, and I would typically feel insecure. As many students know, mental health plays a critical role in one’s education. It is important to prioritize mental health to stay focused. However, a lack of sleep also sacrifices one’s mental health and as stated previously, physical health as well.
The transition from a sporadic sleeping schedule to a healthy consistent sleeping schedule is difficult. However, there are many resources available to help with that transition and to help with the quality of sleep overall. The National Institute of Health recommends using new medium-firm beds. They found that individuals are less likely to get good sleep quality with an extensively old mattress (Jacobson, 2009). Therefore, individuals should invest in a good mattress for their transition. Additionally, MIT Medical recommends utilizing destressing methods such as yoga and meditation. These resources can be found online or can be found at an evening lesson at a local studio. Harvard Medical School, also recommends utilizing herbal teas. Herbal teas calm down the body and can help stimulate melatonin. Strong herbal teas recommended include Chamomile tea and lavender tea. Another useful tip is to utilize essential oils. Some essential oils can also help stimulate melatonin. Through the use of a diffuser, one can release sleep-inducing oils and therefore, can overall help with the quality of sleep. In conclusion, sleep plays a vital role in the human body. From different cognitive functions to physical and mental health, a lack of sleep can deteriorate different key functions. However, there are many resources available to aid in the transition to obtaining good sleep quality. Personally, the transition to a healthier sleep schedule has allowed me to obtain better grades and stabilize my mental health. I now take my sleep health very seriously and believe that all students today should value their sleep much more.