North Texas Daily

The high cost of sleep: Sleeping in debt

The high cost of sleep: Sleeping in debt

The high cost of sleep: Sleeping in debt
September 03
12:43 2015

Sam Beckett | Staff Writer

@SamBeckett27

The sun isn’t even up yet, and Jackie Skellie has a long day ahead of her.

A new transfer student at UNT, Skellie also works full-time at the Apple store in Southlake. Her commute from Hurst makes for long days and lots of driving.

“I try to go to bed around 10 p.m. and wake up around 6 a.m. I need to get a lot of sleep to function,” Skellie said. “If I pull an all-nighter, I feel miserable the next day. After a couple days of no sleep I start to feel physically sick. Sometimes I get strep throat.”

For Jackie, not getting enough sleep is common. Days are filled with school, work, personal commitments and hobbies, often leaving less time for sleep.

Studies are being done at UNT to reflect the importance of sleep. When Dr. Daniel Taylor was hired to teach psychology in 2004, he established UNT’s first insomnia research center, with principal research devoted to the treatment of insomnia and coexisting conditions. He also wrote the definitive guidebook to insomnia, aptly titled “Handbook of Insomnia.”

Jessica Dietch, a fourth-year doctoral student in the Clinical Health Psychology program, said Taylor is her research mentor.

“I am doing research on sleep as it relates to many areas, including prevalence, treatment of insomnia and sleep disturbances in active duty military population,” Dietch said, “as well as sleep and physical health.”

Dietch said college students often find it difficult to “unplug” at night, unable to resist the temptation of their screens. She said students shouldn’t spend time on electronics before they go to bed, allowing their brains to relax and get ready for sleep.

According to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology, 60 percent of college students have low quality of sleep. Another 9.5 percent of college students met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, criteria for insomnia.

Sleeping less than seven hours a night on a regular basis, Dietch said, is associated with adverse health outcomes. These include weight gain and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, depression and increased risk of death.

The term “sleep debt” has been used to describe the effects of poor sleep. It describes the need for more sleep due to the cumulative loss of previous hours of sleep. Dietch said the idea of sleep debt is a debated topic, as the amount of sleep needed to function varies from person to person.

“Some say that one can adapt to loss of sleep over time,” she said, “which would discount the concept of sleep debt.”

UNT is filled with students with individual sleep routines. Often students will stay up early into the morning studying or completing assignments.

“Sleep is important to my mental and physical health,” psychology and kinesiology sophomore Lexie Zachary said. “Staying up late studying makes me feel a little psychotic before class. Usually at about 4 or 5 a.m. I start to feel crazy.”

It is widely accepted in the medical field that adequate sleep promotes optimal cognitive performance, as well as better mental and physical health. Dietch said there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to the amount of sleep someone should get each night.

“I will say that sleep need is like shoe size. It is individual to each person, and it is determined by a combination of genetic and environmental factors,” Dietch said. “If you are prone to sleep problems, napping may harm your chances of getting good sleep at night.”

If someone is experiencing sleep difficulties such as insomnia, Dietch said a great place to seek initial treatment is a healthcare provider, who may ultimately refer students to a sleep center.

As Skellie’s long day continues into the evening, she finds herself tired and ready for bed. The stress and worries of the day fade into the warm evening air. She quickly checks Twitter before retiring to bed.

“I love sleep,” Skellie said. “Sleep is my favorite part of the day.”

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