Western culture has emphasized and may have even idolized the 40-hour work week with the expectation to still implement hobbies, activities, and a proper work-life balance. This may be overwhelming to certain people given the mere 24 hours within a day, however, others will de-prioritize their sleep schedule to make up for the lost time. This could not be more detrimental to our health, and as a result, impacts our efficiency in engaging in day-to-day tasks. As a general rule of thumb, individuals 18 years or older should be aiming for between 7-9 hours of restful sleep. This includes proper sleep hygiene to ensure proper downtime and sleep quality throughout the night. Of course, if you are experiencing abnormal shifts, disruptions, or disturbances in your sleep, please consult with your family physician. However, if you recognize manageable changes to your sleep schedule that you can implement, do it! Restful sleep has a plethora of benefits either than simply giving you the energy to go about your day upon waking up. It significantly decreases your cognitive vulnerability by maintaining (and essentially protecting) your working memory, flexible thinking, inhibitory control, and memory consolidation. So yes, it is important to get some sleep before that exam that you want to study all night for. Additionally, the non-REM cycle of our sleep engages in a process where it takes the fluid around our brain and exchanges it with fluid inside the brain. This allows for the cleansing of proteins such as tau, A-beta, and lactate. When not properly "cleansed" (i.e. not getting enough sleep), these proteins can contribute to a higher risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
Lastly, attaining a proper amount of sleep reduces the risk of weight gain. The risk of chronic sleep restriction is associated with a 6% increase in food intake, lower leptin levels (the hormone that adjusts food intake), increased ghrelin (the hormone that drives hunger), and lower insulin sensitivity/higher insulin resistance. Given these benefits, it is crucial to prioritize our sleep schedules and their quality to prevent these risks. So, if you're looking to start somewhere in creating a healthier lifestyle, start with your sleep... your body will thank you!