By: Mellary Chimpelo
As students or individuals who have entered a world different to the school environment finding a balance between our social lives, academic lives and the other bits and pieces that come with life sleep might take a back seat. For the active and always busy person, sleep seems completely unnecessary and for the more relaxed person sleep is something one doesn’t mind taking in large doses. The body being a complex machine works on several integrated systems which requires a balance albeit exercise; diet; mental stimulation and sleep.
Sleep is a biological occurrence controlled by different mechanisms of the body, namely by your biological clock also known as your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a cycle that occurs over 24 hours and is highly influenced by the time of day and types of activities of an individual . Sleep is described as the period of time where our bodies experience a decrease in consciousness or alertness and activity of our voluntary muscles . It is the body’s RnR time where it restores body energy stores and repairs damages or stresses the body encounters during the day. Now one needs to understand that this RnR period is especially important for normal functioning of the body and mind. Depriving our bodies of sleep decreases our ability to function effectively and efficiently. Both quantity and quality of sleep are important. There are two main stages of sleep; rapid eye movement and non rapid eye movement. The rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep is where the there is no activity of the voluntary muscles except for those of the eyes . During the REM stage the body is not in a deep state of sleep but a lighter state of sleep, REM sleep is also associated with dream state that we remember. As you fall deeper into sleep your body is going into the non rapid eye movement stage of sleep. It occurs in three phases of the NREM stage of sleep, phases N1-N3which are basically a transition from light sleep to deep sleep. This is the most important part of your sleeping cycle as this is when the body reboots and repairs itself.
The body is said to feel more rested when it goes through regular complete cycles of sleep, in other words the body need to complete both REM and NREM. A complete sleeping cycle takes90-120 minutes, alternating between REM and NREM stages of sleep. If you are having a more hectic week and are struggling to see where you’ll fit in sleep try setting your alarm in multiples of 90 minutes. 
Interruption to a full sleep cycle may leave one deprived of the quality of sleep that allows for full recuperation especially in the brain. During sleep special cells of the brain are either repaired or replaced thus allowing for the brain to function to its maximal capacity when we are wake. With proper sleep though cells of the brain and the body are not afforded this time to regenerate and so our complete body function gradually declines. This means that a person would become sluggish and take longer to understand and apply concepts. Another important physiological factor that is effected by poor sleeping patterns is our ability to form long term memories. There are theories that suggest that sleep assists in the formulation and saving of memories in certain parts in the brain. Without that ‘reboot’ time our brain finds it more difficult to store and recall different memories.  Unfortunately sleep deprivation isn’t taken too seriously especially when we have supplements such as red bull monster and our good friend coffee. Unfortunately these quick pick-me-ups are good in the moment they are also good but have a roller coaster effect, in that they don’t last. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a little bit of caffeine…but it has bad implications on our health on the long run. In high concentrations caffeine can lead to one feeling anxious, light headed and dizzy…so just remember everything in moderation !
All in all as constantly changing and growing individuals we need to make sure that we find time during the day to take a step out of our busy lives and make sure that we are actually giving 110% into our activities rater than 45%. Ensure that you give yourself up to 7-8 hours of sleep, eat healthy, study smart and play hard 😉
 M Smith, L. Robinson and R Segal (2012) How much sleep do I need? Sleep cycles stages and lack of sleep and getting the hours you need; HELPGUID.org
 The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Brain and Behaviour; 2008; Serendip; http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1690.html
Other readings :
Information on getting healthy: www.medicinenet.com/sleep/article.html
Brain Basics: Understanding sleep: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disords/brain_basics/understanding _sleep.html