OPINION: One-third of your entire life is spent unconscious, and it’s absolutely necessary

Scott Rainey

The new year is upon us. With it comes plenty of new year’s resolutions that, for the most part are well-intentioned and extremely hard to keep. Trying to commit to something for a year seems impossible when you realize how hard it is to commit for only 30 days. There is one resolution though that will be incredibly beneficial and quite a bit easier than going to the gym every day.

2019 should be the year of sleep.

Get eight hours every night. I know it’s a difficult proposition, especially for students who have strict deadlines and large projects. Hear me out, though: It’s the single most important thing you can do for your health.

First, it’s not cool to get into a competition with others about how hard you work and how little sleep/food you get throughout the day. That’s ridiculous, and you will run yourself into the ground, compromise your mental health and damage your body. Second, getting enough sleep will enhance your ability to work effectively, thus getting rid of the need to actually stay up all night to finish something or to study.

The book “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker gives the reader an excellent insight into, quite literally, why we sleep. While it’s not meant to be scary, it certainly frightens readers who aren’t getting the recommended seven-to-nine hours of sleep they require. There is a myriad of benefits to getting enough and there are just as many problems that arise from lack of sleep.

If you get fewer than seven hours of sleep, things start to go down hill. You are more likely to get cancer because your immune system can’t function properly. You’re more likely to develop heart disease and dementia. You increase your chances of dying in a car wreck. You increase the likelihood that you’ll become obese, and if you’re trying to lose weight but you aren’t sleeping enough, it’s not happening. You are also more likely to suffer from various mental illnesses, most commonly depression and anxiety.

On the other hand, if you get enough sleep each night, then you are effectively helping yourself reverse and stop all of the problems caused by a lack of sleep. Sleep helps your memory substantially. If you are learning a new skill, sleep is vital in aiding that learning. You will feel more productive as work won’t tire you out as quickly.

As I mentioned in a previous article, sleep—specifically dreaming—is the most therapeutic activity you can do for yourself. Dreams take the sting out of traumatic events and can reduce depression and anxiety. Sufficient sleep balances your hunger hormones. Leptin, your appetite suppressor, is more active when you sleep enough. Ghrelin, your appetite enhancer, is less active when you sleep enough. You’re also more likely to choose healthier foods when you get sufficient sleep.

Remember: if you’re sleep deprived, you likely don’t know it. People often say “Oh, I’m good on six hours of sleep.” No, you are not. You’re sleep deprived, you aren’t functioning at an optimal level, and you’re hurting your body. Prioritizing sleep is easier than it seems, and you’ll immediately reap the benefits of getting a proper eight hours.

So please, in 2019, let’s make sure we’re getting sufficient sleep. It’s the ultimate self-care, and it positively affects every aspect of your life. You will live longer, and your life will be prosperous.

Scott Rainey is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].