Sweet Dreams, Friartown

by Emma Strempfer '24 on November 10, 2023

Editor's Column

As college students, our sleep schedules are like no other. I remember in my freshman year — and this is as someone who never skipped a class—  I stayed up all night and then would take naps all throughout the day. As time went on, I got better about keeping a more normal schedule. But even in the fall semester of my junior year, I remember pulling more than one all-nighter. I think our propensity to do this is rooted in the fact that we are experiencing our first real freedom to dictate our own schedules — and we (or at least I) did a shabby job. 

But sleep is not something to be taken lightly. While we might look peaceful, fan in our faces and under the covers, our bodies are doing some serious work. If we attempt to stop that work, we threaten our health. 

Last month, Columbia University Irving Medical Center released a study on 1,000 women in New York. Over 12 weeks, the study found that a deprivation of sleep of just 90 minutes resulted in damage to blood vessels. 

When we get less sleep than we need, blood vessels are filled with damaging oxidants. If a person is well rested, giving their cells time to repair, an antioxidant will be released to clear the dangerous molecules. But when a person is not giving their cells time to rest and repair, the cells become inflamed and start to work poorly. This is the first sign of cardiovascular disease. It is new evidence, Dr. Sanja Jelic says that mild sleep deprivation can cause serious heart problems. 

Now, the study was done on women, but there is no doubt that the information applies to all in some respects. 

In a 2017 study done for the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers found that a lack of sleep affects a lot more than we expect, “Not only in obvious domains such as vitality and energy/motivation, but also in other mental, social, and physical activities such as work performance, cognitive functioning, emotional regulation, and relationship/family functioning.” 

You are doing yourself no favors by pulling all-nighters, staying up late, and running on only four hours of meaningful rest. Sleep is not just a break from being awake. It is an essential component of living in a human body. Memories are made, nerve cells communicate and reorganize, wounds are healed, cells are repaired, and the proper balance of hormones and proteins are released. We might be done growing, but that doesn’t mean we are done taking care of ourselves. Our bodies need to maintain themselves, and so much of that happens when we are warm and cozy in our beds. 

So, sweet dreams Friartown, you’ll be better off for it.