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  • Writer's pictureDrDavanaPilczuk

Sleep off the Freshman 15

College is back in swing and, chances are, so is the collective collegiate waistline. Students all over the nation are often hit with a rude and heavy awakening when they leave home, head off to school and suddenly start to see unwanted pounds start to pile on.

Why does this happen? Well, we all know the obvious reasons the pounds start stacking up, but there’s one hidden one college students aren’t paying enough attention to: sleep. When the body operates chronically sleep deprived, the likelihood of weight gain increases. So if students don’t want to replace their diets of beer and Taco Bell, then the second best thing is to focus on getting at least eight hours of sleep per night, most nights of the week.

Here’s what the science says: when we wake up sleep deprived either from poor quality sleep or not enough hours of sleep (like pulling an all-nighter), the body doesn’t wake feeling energized. Since its need for energy and recovery wasn’t granted during the night, it longs to energize itself another way... via food. When we are short on sleep, we feel hungry all day and crave simple carbohydrates like chips, soda and pizza. Running with a chronic sleep debt means we continually feel excessively hungry and will be continually snacking and munching in an effort to feel better.

College students are also experiencing high levels of stress, with schools placing more and more demands on students to learn and perform at a rapid pace. In an effort to keep up the good grades, students pull all-nighters or cut into their sleep schedule to study, but that strategy is backfiring on them.

First, to retain what you’ve learned today from your Philosophy 101 class, you’ve got to go to sleep. Sleep is the time that the brain processes short-term memory into long-term memory, and pulling a lengthy late night can actually hinder your ability to retain new information. As for stress, well, it increases when you are sleep deprived. Many mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, are closely tied to sleep problems. Want to feel less anxious or happier? Go to sleep.

One more tip that will open your eyes: alcohol isn’t helping you sleep. Every night we fall in and out of deep sleep. We cycle between light sleep (when we dream) and deep sleep (when our body physically recovers) about every 90 minutes. We get some deep sleep followed by some light sleep, with both being necessary for that well-rested feeling in the morning. Alcohol does help us fall into deep sleep, but once we come out of it, we tend to stay in light sleep for the remainder of the night. This means the slightest noise, light or disturbance will continually wake us up for most of our alcohol-induced slumber. Simple translation: when we wake, we will feel like poop.

If you are serious about wanting to lose weight, focus on getting sleep.

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