In a life span of 75 years, approximately 25 of those years may be spent sleeping. 

Voluntary sleep deprivation is a common occurrence for many college students, who often partially deprive themselves of sleep during the week and compensate by increasing their sleep time over the weekend. 

Another common sleep disorders is Obstructive Sleep Apneas Syndrome (OSAS).  OSAS is a disorder characterized by repetitive episodes of breathing cessation during sleep that leads to poor quality of sleep.  Individuals with OSA frequently report subjective distress and poor quality of life in general such as sedentary lifestyle which may lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. 

The most common treatment for sleep disorders is pharmacological (sleeping pills). The National Institute of Health notes that short-term use of medications may be useful for acute and situational insomnia, but long-term use remains controversial because of the potential risk of tolerance and dependency. 

Non-pharmacological interventions, such as exercise, promotes relaxation and raises the core body temperature in ways that are beneficial to initiating and maintaining sleep without the risk of drug-related tolerance and dependency. Thus, is important to consider non-pharmacological ways to ensure quality of sleep. Studies have indicated that OSA patients who exercise increase their total sleep time and sleep efficiency and have less awakening and arousal per hour. 

Exercise is also beneficial in lowering the risk of many of the diseases that are associated with OSAS such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. Thus, exercise is a beneficial, non-pharmacological way, to enhance ones quality of sleep and life.

Stages of Sleep

  • Stage I: is the lightest level of sleep and is the transitional stage between consciousness and deeper levels of sleep. 
  • Stage II: accounts for 45% of the entire sleep period.  During this stage, electroencephalogram (EEG) shows generally low levels of brain activity. Stage II, is thought to be a prolonged transition between the waking state and the deep sleep state. Stage II serves as a transitional period between deep sleep and active sleep. Breathing and heart rate slows down, body temperature decreases, and eye movements stop.
  • Stages III and IV: are most commonly known as the period of Slow Wave Sleep (SWS).  Stage IV accounts for 50% of slow wave activity.  People awakened during these stages of sleep are often pretty groggy and disoriented.  Individuals may experience night terrors, or sleep walking in these stages. Also during this stage, human growth hormone (HGH) is secreted and is closely associated with body tissue reparation (Pernell, 1997). 
  • Rapid Eye Movement (REM): this is the sleep stage and is a discrete state of “active” sleep. This stage is most commonly referred to as the dreaming state. During REM sleep, skeletal muscle tone is diminished, resulting in almost total paralysis of the body.  REM deprivation can be detrimental on the body: One study reported increased central nervous system (CNS) excitability, lowered thresholds for CNS arousal, and altered responses to auditory stimuli following periods of REM deprivation (Kopell, B.S., Zarcone, V., De La Pena, A., and Dement. W.C., 1975).  Lastly, REM deprivation influences neurochemicals, specifically acetylcholine (ACH), which plays a role in sleep/wake state and REM sleep (Grillin, Sitaram, N., and Mendelson, W.B. 1982).  Deprivation of REM sleep, can lead to ACH buildup and a “pressure” for REM sleep (Giora, 1971).  

The importance of sleep

Academic Success: Research has noted that sleep plays an important role in the learning process. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can impair learning and memory for both motor procedural (skills) and declarative memory systems (knowledge).  Research has found that sleep habits were highly correlated with academic performance among first-year college students. Official grades (provided by the registers office) indicated that students with a lower performance were those with later bedtimes and wake-up times on both weekdays and weekend days. Authors concluded that for every hour of delay in reported rise time during the week, the predicted GPAs could decrease by 0.13 on a scale of 0-4. It appears that this delay could impact students’ ability to recall complex materials. Other studies also support this notion that students experiencing daytime sleepiness due to poor quality of sleep can seriously impair students’ cognitive functioning and behavioral performance. These studies are suggesting that students could damage their own academic success by choosing the wrong schedule to deprive themselves of sleep before exams, class projects or class work. Another interesting link to academic problems is what is known as delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), which is the tendency of college students (incidence of 17%) to extend the weekend’s sleep schedules (late lights-out time, long sleeping onset latency, late wake-up time) to weekdays. This behavior results in both sleep onset and awakening problems. 

Health Issues

  • Nervous system:  Neurons used during the day repair themselves during sleep.  When an individual is sleep deprived nervous impulses often do not travel as quickly as they do with appropriate sleep and the person experiences a slower reaction time.
  • Immune system: Without proper sleep, the immune system becomes weak and the body becomes vulnerable to infection and disease.

 

  • Growth and Development: Growth hormones are released during sleep, so sleep is vital to proper physical and mental development. 
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