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The Importance of Your Sleep Cycle

For most students, typical college life has nothing to do with keeping a consistent sleep schedule. Because students are still relatively young, lack of sleep is, actually, manageable. It is possible to be constantly working up until the last minute, downing the nearest available caffeinated beverages, and still make great grades. It is, however, very dangerous to your overall health and intelligence. The importance of getting a full sleep cycle is huge, so read on if you think you may be lacking in the sleep department.

Sleep is cyclical. It consists of four stages and a REM cycle. Stage 1 is the body’s transition to sleep. Muscles begin to relax, and eyes roll around slowly. In Stage 2, your body temperature drops and the heart rate slows. This is the first stage in which the body is truly sleeping. Then, Stage 3 and 4 are known as deep sleep. Following deep sleep is REM sleep, or dream sleep.

All cycles of sleep are important, but your body truly suffers when it does not get adequate amounts of time in both deep sleep and REM.

During deep sleep, your body repairs itself. Brain function slows, and blood flow is directed toward the rest of the body. Deep sleep plays a major role in promoting growth, repairing muscle tissue and maintaining the immune system. And what REM does for the mind, deep sleep does for the body. REM sleep promotes learning and memory. During REM, the brain processes information from the previous day, makes neural connections and creates neurotransmitters and other chemicals necessary to maintain your mood and feel good during the day.

If you starve your body from either deep or REM sleep, you physically inhibit your brain from restoring itself, ultimately taking away from any extra study hours you spent cramming. Many people are sleep deprived, but, for a college student, it can be even more problematic.

So how do you know if you’re getting enough sleep? You are sleep deprived if you need an alarm clock in order to wake up on time, press the snooze button every morning, find it difficult getting out of bed or need a midday nap. Sound like you? Unfortunately, the only way to prevent the effects of sleep deprivation is to get more sleep. College age students should get 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep in order to be healthy.

So, if you’re constantly reaching for that snooze button, try going to sleep when you know you will get a good nine hours.

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