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Professional Health Column: The Power of Sleep

Betsey Miller
Nurse Practitioner at the Engle Center

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Photo retrieved from giphy.com

Betsey Miller, MSN, CRNP is our nurse practitioner at the Engle Heath Center. She is a 1993 Messiah alumna who returned to campus last year after obtaining 17 years of family practice experience. She is excited to be back at Messiah and to have the opportunity to serve the campus community’s health needs.

Overheard at Messiah: “I have no idea how I bombed that test – I pulled an all-nighter to study for it!” The all-nighter – truth be told, we’ve all done it. But does pulling an all-nighter really help you, or is getting a good night’s sleep more beneficial?

Recent studies have shown that sacrificing sleep in order to study is often counterproductive. In another study, people who slept after learning something new did better on a test the following day. According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep deprivation in students has actually been linked to lower GPAs.

Many of us think that we can function on only a few hours of sleep a night, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, as adults we physiologically need 7-9 hours of sleep to function normally every day. As humans, we need food, water, oxygen and sleep to survive and to thrive. For some reason, we often forget that sleep is a physiologic necessity and instead think of it as more of a luxury.

Sleep is not just a period of time when you are not awake. Sleep is pretty much like food for the brain, and it’s not until toward the end of a good night’s sleep that your brain has a chance to get really nourished. It’s the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage that is so critical for learners because it’s during this stage that your brain consolidates all that was taken in the day before and clears out any old, unnecessary information to make room for the new. Your brain is actively working during this stage to create new pathways for learning, memories, and insight. Your brain is very busy while you sleep! So if you’re skimping on hours of sleep, you’re cheating your brain out of this important process.

So the next time your study partner suggests that the two of you chug some Starbucks and pull an all-nighter, pull out your pillow and blanket and wish him or her a “goodnight.”

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