“Sleep is for the Weak” and the Negative Effects on Youth

Credit: Pixabay

Your sleep-deprived friend (because we all have one) walks up to you and says, “Sleep is for the weak.” 😑

We all know this is not true; we feel rested and have a significant increase in productivity after a good night’s rest.

Many American youths are busy all the time with school, sports, clubs, and other activities, barely leaving any time for homework, much less sleep 😱. So why do we sacrifice sleep when it would be just as easy, and generally more productive, to sacrifice something else?

The Rationale Behind Staying Up

When asked, most students want to sleep. We all complain about being tired, about wanting to sleep more, but most of us don’t actually follow through 👎

There is so much weight placed on schoolwork, social activities, and other work to bolster our chances of getting into a good college. Without being educated about the necessity of sleep, and even sometimes with it, many of us sacrifice sleep for homework, social media, or chatting with friends📱

Credit: Pixabay

Our social life, reputation, and grades all depend on doing all the work we can while making it look easy 🤪. Unfortunately, this often means that we waste our time in public and work into the early hours of the morning.

What Happens During Sleep?

Sleep is not a time where everything shuts off. Many important functions take place when it seems as though we are doing nothing.

Memory Consolidation

One important function that happens when we are asleep is memory consolidation 💭

Credit: Pixabay

Long-term memory is made possible by the connections of neurons in the hippocampus 🧠. The connections are used over and over so that they are reinforced and therefore implanted in your long-term memory. Most of these repetitions happen when you’re asleep 💤

An interrupted or inconsistent sleep pattern can result in faulty memory of an event multiple days prior. Your brain needs time to go through your memories, and it’s not going to happen all in one night ⏳

Since many other parts of your brain shut off during sleep, there is less activity. That means resources are free to consolidate memory 🥳 rather than thinking, receiving sensations, or any other task that happens when we’re awake.

Growth

Credit: Pixabay

Sleep is when your body grows, both in height and in all the other parts of your body. Without gravity weighing down on you and compressing your body (assuming you don’t sleep standing up), it is easier for your body to repair and grow new tissue 💪

Credit: Rudy Mawer

Hormone Regulation

Another function during sleep is hormone regulation, and this is present in all people, not just teenagers. Hormone levels rise and dip overnight, and they regulate many things, not only how tired you are.

This is why a night of sleep deprivation can mess with our appetite; the regulation of the hormones ghrelin and leptin (hunger and fullness 😋) can cause us to want to eat more or less than usual.

Back to Reality

In reality, we are not going to have a perfect sleep schedule. Life gets in the way, and scheduling can be out of our control 🤷. So, what shortcuts can we use to still achieve some of these functions, if not all?

Credit: Pixabay

Long Naps 😴

Naps are a great way to recuperate after a long day of work. They give our brain little bits of time to perform the functions that usually happen at night.

Naps for an hour or longer often include an entire sleep cycle 😲, which makes them optimal for after learning something you want to remember.

Long naps help our memories because they can retrace those neural pathways soon after creating them. This makes it less likely for the memories to be affected by whatever else happened during the day 🎉

Power Naps ⚡️

Sometimes you can’t plan for how tired you feel in the middle of the day, and you just feel dead on your feet 🥱

Short naps, or commonly dubbed power naps, can increase your alertness and productivity short-term. The optimal range of power naps is between 10 and 20 minutes.

Because you don’t start a full sleep cycle (and therefore don’t wake up in the middle of it), you are way less likely to feel groggy after waking up 😎

🔑 Takeaways

  • “Sleep is for the weak” is completely false 👎
  • Emphasis on work and social connections causes us to lose sleep 😱
  • During sleep, many important functions take place, such as: Memory Consolidation 💭, Growth 💪, and Hormone Regulation
  • Long naps 😴 mimic a night of sleep — perfect for after you learn something new
  • Power naps ⚡️ increase your energy, alertness, and productivity short term — perfect for when you almost fall asleep at work/school

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Sydney Lie Merrill

Hi! I'm a 15 year old with an interest in psychology, biomimicry, and neuroscience.