Why Good Sleep is Vital

A good night's sleep is incredibly important for health. In fact, studies show that it is as important as eating healthily and exercising.

As we are in the throes of external examinations, it is easy for students to fall into the trap of working much longer hours than usual and ‘burning the midnight oil’ in the hope that more learning and the retention of knowledge will ensue... however, we all know (from personal experience) that this is rarely the case.

Examinations, in addition to the western environment, often interfere with natural sleep patterns. People are now sleeping less than they did in the past, and moreover, the quality of this shortened sleep has decreased.

The vital role sleep plays in general health and wellbeing are well documented, some of those pertinent to our students are highlighted below:

Sleep Can Improve Concentration and Performance
Sleep is important for brain function and regulation including cognition, concentration and performance. Sleep deprivation all negatively impact on these. Good sleep, conversely, has been shown to enhance problem solving skills and memory performance both in children and adults- important for exam success.

Sleep Improves Your Immune System
Even a small decrease in sleep has been shown to reduce immune function. One large 2-week study monitored the development of the common cold in sleep deprived volunteers who were given the cold virus. They found that those who slept less than 7 hours were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more.

Good Sleepers Tend to Eat Fewer Calories
Studies show that sleep deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories. Sleep deprivation disrupts the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones including higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and reduced levels of leptin, the appetite suppressant.

Sleep Affects Glucose Metabolism and Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Experimental sleep restriction affects blood sugar and reduces insulin sensitivity. In a study of healthy young men, restricting sleep to 4 hours per night for 6 nights in a row caused symptoms of pre-diabetes. This was then resolved after 1 week of increased sleep duration.

The take home message is, therefore, that getting enough quality sleep, in addition to working smarter and not harder, is another factor in helping to ensure exam success and healthy living.



Brian Irving, Head of Secondary