By Sydney Janssen

Sleep is important, but we often do not realize its many benefits. Without adequate sleep, our mind and body don’t work optimally, but, sleep is important for the brain for countless other reasons as well. 

According to The Healthy and, beyond restoring energy, some of the main jobs of the brain during sleep are removing waste, helping with memory, solidifying information for physical work, decision making, creativity, and more. 

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, cerebral spinal fluid is created in the brain and circulates throughout our bodies, removing toxic substances including drugs, debris, bacteria, viruses, and more. This process of waste removal is activated during sleep and allows for waste to be cleaned out. Without this process, the waste would pile up and lead to many other health problems.

Sleep helps our brains create and consolidate memories. When we sleep, the brain helps move information from our short-term memory to our long-term memory. Not only does this process help us learn information better, but it also improves our ability to learn while we are awake.

In addition to helping solidify memories, sleep allows our brains to solidify information for physical tasks. Sleep makes it possible to embed these tasks into our brains, making maneuvers become automatic instead of something we have to think about.

Sleep also helps with decision-making and creativity. While we sleep, our brains process issues, so when we wake up, it is much easier to make decisions. Our brains also make associations between different pieces of information that we would not make the connections between while awake, enhancing our creative ability. 

In order to retain all of these benefits, seven to nine hours of sleep each night is recommended. Almost all college students know that not getting enough sleep can have noticeable consequences, such as not being able to think or work at our best capacity and feeling tired throughout the day. 

However, according to HealthGuide, if you have gotten the recommended amount of sleep, it is still possible to feel tired due to a lack of quality sleep. And, unfortunately, inadequate sleep during the week cannot be made up for on the weekend by sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday.

While it is challenging for college students to get sufficient sleep, there are many methods that can improve quality of sleep. Healthline explains that some of the best ways of doing this are by spending more time outside, reducing the amount of blue light at night, and avoiding caffeine in the evenings. 

Another way to improve sleep quality is to increase the amount of bright light you are exposed to during the day. This works because our bodies have an internal clock, which helps us stay awake and lets us know when it is time to sleep. 

An obvious way to improve sleep quality is to avoid drinking caffeine later in the day. It is recommended to stop consuming caffeine at least six to eight hours before bed because caffeine can remain elevated in blood.

Our brains are hard at work while we are sleeping — removing toxic substances, creating and consolidating memories as well as information for physical tasks, helping us with decision making and creativity, and more. While it is difficult for college students to get adequate sleep each night, there are ways we can get a better quality of sleep.   

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