Health, School

Sleep and Your Body

girl sleeping

Everyone likes to joke about and compare how little they sleep. To some, it’s a matter of pride. 

I sleep 3-4 hours a night just so I can manage my workload. ”

However, what people don’t realize is that preventing your body from getting the rest it needs has severe long-term effects and hampers your performance on a day-to-day basis. Not sleeping enough can result in memory loss, lack of alertness, and mood swings, affecting your work and personal relationships.

Teenagers require 8-10 hours of sleep. Speaking from personal experience, I’m lucky if I even get half that amount. On average, we tend to get 7-8 hours of sleep. This is due to a multitude of reasons. After puberty begins, your biological clock shifts about two hours. For example, an individual who would go to sleep at 9:00 PM will now have trouble sleeping until 11:00. Though this is true and does affect younger teenagers in middle school, growing academic pressures involving grades, extracurriculars, obligations, and relationships also take a chunk out of your rest.

What many teenagers and adults don’t realize is that the less they sleep, the more their sleep debt grows. Your body can very much feel that it’s not getting enough sleep. Your body summons sleep in two ways: by sending more adenosine (a neurotransmitter) around your body, and by sending signals from your circadian clock.

 Adenosine  can be considered a cellular  by-product and is produced and released into the bloodstream when [cells] use energy. It’s taken up to the receptors that govern wakefulness in the basal forebrain, acting as a slow buffer, minimizing your ability to be attentive and remember things. When there’s a lot of adenosine, you start to feel drowsy. (The way caffeine works is by blocking adenosine receptors in your brain, essentially numbing you to its effects.) 

The circadian clock regulates all of your bodily functions. When it comes to sleep, it causes the human body to feel very sleepy between 12:00-6:00 AM, and a little extra sleepy between 2:00-4:00 PM.

A study at the University of Chicago found that after having volunteers sleep four hours a night for six nights, volunteers developed higher blood pressure and larger amounts of the hormone cortisol. They also produced less antibodies and signs of insulin resistance, a precursor to type-2 diabetes. After sleeping the amount they needed to, they reversed all of these effects. Another study from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Medical School found that after having volunteers sleep for either 8, 6, or 4 hours a night for two weeks, and a fourth group of volunteers who didn’t sleep for three days, the groups that had slept 4-6 hours a night didn’t perform much better than the one that hadn’t slept for 72 hours. 

The hours add up. Speaking from personal experience, during the spring semester, I averaged 2-5 hours of sleep. Every night. The moment summer began, I began sleeping inordinate amounts. Before this year, my circadian clock wouldn’t let me sleep past 7:30. Now, if I don’t use an alarm to wake up, my body won’t let me wake up until 10:00-11:00. The first week of summer? I slept 8-14 hours a night. I physically can’t sleep the way I used to. My body needs its sleep. Likewise, your body will react to you not sleeping well and you’ll have more difficulty performing daily tasks. Guard your sleep. 

Ayona Roychowdhury

Ayona Roychowdhury is a junior in high school. She is a dancer, and plays clarinet and guitar. As the founder of the Homewood HOSA chapter and an active Girl Scout, Ayona has a deep interest in healthcare and the well-being of the public. She is very involved at school as well, and is a clarinet section leader, robotics captain, Peer Helper, an Ambassador, and in SGA. Her future goals are centered around pursuing a career in the medical field.

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