Last term, learned a lot about the importance of sleep. I took CSB345, a sleep biology course at U of T. Of course, sleepis a basic need of all animals but a trend of sleeping less is in fashion. Working and playing hard is praised and with it often comes sleep deprivation. It’s common for students to boast about how little sleep they got. Students often pull all-nighters.
So why is sleep important for students?
During the day, certain nerves of the brain strengthen and grow as we learn new material. Sleep downscales all strengthened brain nerves. Unnecessary connections are eliminated and the total weight of brain nerves return to the original weight it initially started with. After deep, good quality sleep, only the most important nerves stay and there is enough space to make new connections in the brain the following day. A good amount of quality sleep after learning allows for better function of the brain and memory retention.
Deep sleep also allows for detox of the brain. During the day, toxins are created and accumulate in the brain. Toxins are carried to the blood brain barrier by cerebrospinal fluid. Toxins are then transferred into the venous system for elimination. When we are awake, there is limited cerebrospinal fluid flow and less toxins are drained, but during sleep increased cerebrospinal fluid flow allows for more toxins to be drained out. When the brain is free of toxins, it functions better.
Sleep is a tool for more efficient studying. Even if we study hard during the day, lack of sleep could erase all of the effort because we’d forget. Aiming for 7-8 hours of good quality sleep every day is a recipe for success.
I should end with an important disclaimer: no one sleeps perfectly. On occasion, you may be sleep deprived. Not to worry; accumulation of lack of sleep is more harmful to our bodies and performance at school than the occasional single sleep-deprived night.
Good quality sleep is one of the best forms of self-care hard working students can prioritize.
I hope everyone studies and sleeps well!
(GIFs from griphy.com)