Everyday we all strive to reach that optimal performance. Throughout history people have experimented with and learned, through trial and error, the right lifestyle choices required to achieve this level whether it be through exercising, partaking in the right diet, disciplining the mind, living in a favorable environment, or even having the right genetics. Rather than attempting to make changes to all of these categories, many focus on two activities within their control: diet and exercise.
Although methods such as editing your genome or moving to a different environment present a difficult challenge, you can control what nutrients enter your body and how your body works to expend that energy. And thus there are now internet blogs and forums set up to discuss these the right type of workout and diet, magazines printed for the most avid health-conscious enthusiasts, and companies that sell supplementary products. Yet while many dedicate several hours of their day focusing on maintaining the right diet and the right workout in order to reach their optimal performance levels, they still forget one crucial factor: sleep.
In today’s society many people pass up on sleep, believing that getting a good night’s rest can be easily replaced and reimbursed at a later time. It is not surprising that, in a college environment, students place sleep lower than diet and exercise on their list of concerns. Several researches have shown that sleep, diet, and exercise complement each other as part of three-legged stool that support optimal performance.
A recent research in young children has demonstrated that both the amount of sleep and the pattern of sleep can contribute to an individual’s cognitive performance. The ability to consolidate new memory into long-term storage is important in learning new tasks. Impairments in sleep affect two types of long-term memory: non-declarative memory and declarative memory. Non-declarative memory involves automatic actions, such as motor skill learning or sequence-specific learning. Declarative memory consists of episodic and semantic memory; these are events that were experienced in the past or information that has been acquired, respectively.
Results showed that the disruption of sleep has a greater effect of negatively influencing declarative memory, while having minimal effect of negatively influencing non-declarative memory. These findings suggest that that declarative and non-declarative memory operate on two different modes or molecular pathways of memory consolidation. Therefore, sleep deprivation may affect processes that require more attention, such as recalling a certain event from an individual’s experience. Researchers suggest that this may be due to the structural changes in the brain circuitry that deals with long-term memory storage, involving the hippocampus and the frontal lobes. Furthermore, this study was the first to investigate the effects of sleeping disorders in children. Most significantly, children who are left untreated may experience impaired cognitive abilities in life since the effects can also extend into adulthood as the brain develops.
While sleep disorders are uncommon in children, ranging from 0.7% to 13%, they can be detrimental to one’s health. Even though most children do not suffer from an inability to sleep, many do experience sleep deprivations because they do not have the time to sleep. This also includes teenagers who are transitioning to young adults and are burdened by the amount of tasks that require high cognitive performance, such as taking an examination.
Last year on April 20th, founder of Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington spoke in front of hundreds of students as part of UCLA’s annual Healthy Campus Initiative. Huffington promoted her new book, The Sleep Revolution, which reaffirms the importance of sleep, especially for young adults in college.
Time and time again, sleep has proven to be vital in achieving the optimal performance of everyday tasks. Diet and exercise is no longer enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A new regimen must look towards both a consistent pattern of sleep and the amount of sleep, which provides for an efficient recovery and resting phase. By the recent trends on young adults in college campuses, it should be sooner rather than later that we all acknowledge the importance of sleep.
Reference and further readings
Chervin, Ronald D., and Shelley D. Hershner. “Causes and Consequences of Sleepiness among College Students.” Nature and Science of Sleep 6 (2014): 73-84.
Csabi et al. “Declarative and Non-Declarative Memory Consolidation in Children with Sleep Disorder.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 9 (2016): 1-8.
Huffington, Arianna. The Sleep Revolution. New York: Harmony, 2016. Print.