Everyone has heard the basic "You can sleep when you're dead," quote that is to motivate you to keep pushing through and to do everything that life has to offer. However, being told this is actually detrimental to both physical and mental health.
I came across an article titled 'You Can Sleep When You're Dead' Is Actually Deadly Advice" after discussing this phenomenon in a sociology class of mine. This class is definitely out of my area of expertise seeing as I am a mechanical engineering major. Nevertheless, I try to stay engaged in the class and I actually find it pretty interesting. Recently in class, we were discussing the quote "Rest is not the reward for hard work – it is the prerequisite," which led us into the discussion of "You can sleep when you're dead." There are three main reasons why this advice going around a lot is harmful to one's psychological and physiological well-being.
1. Lack of sleep puts the immune system at a disadvantage
Sleep loss can make it more difficult for your body to fight off illnesses because white blood cells are depleted. Neuroscientist Matthew Walker says that just one night of only four to five hours of sleep can decrease white blood cell count by approximately 70%.
2. Just one hour of lost sleep can kill
According to studies conducted in the spring when clocks are pushed forward an hour, car accident rates spike along with heart attacks spike 25% because sleep deprivation increases stress on the heart.
3. Sleep debt is carcinogenic
Sleep deprivation causes the body to be more prone to contracting colon, breast, and prostate cancers.
Do people who tell us these things realize how bad it actually is to say this? Growing up, I have always heard how adults always know best, to follow the advice of my teachers, etc. But when teachers have the audacity to tell me that I need to "Eat, sleep, and breathe," the subject of their class (this has actually happened to me before) or adults tell me to just push through because I can "Sleep when I'm dead," am I really expected to listen?
So many students in high schools and universities across the world deprive themselves of sleep in order to get their homework done and to study for their tests. However, the issue doesn't just lie in the people saying these things. When it comes to teachers and professors in academia saying these things, the issue becomes much bigger because they are the ones whose job it is to educate and mentor their students. This is an issue within the education system as a whole.
Why do some teachers and professors ignore that fact that we as students are human beings? That we need sleep and rest in order to properly function? And that we are taking more than just their one class?
In order for the education system to change, these issues need to be addressed. All educators need to be aware of the increased stress and pressure students today are facing in comparison to years past. All students need to be aware of their own health and understand their body's limits so that they do not push themselves too hard. As a student, it hurts to hear my educators tell me that I just need to "Suck it up and deal with it," "Get straight A's or you'll be a failure in life," "Eat, sleep, and breathe...," etc. All of these statements put students into a bad mindset, increase their already high-stress levels, and take away their love of learning.
It is rude and downright disrespectful (almost to the point where it can be seen as mental harassment) for educators to say such things to students, especially when school stress is now becoming an issue in some middle schools, not just high school and college. I understand that school is difficult and that there is no way to just make it easy enough for everyone to get straight A's. However, school should not be seen as a toxic environment, teachers shouldn't be placing so much stress on kids by telling them to busy themselves with everything because they will have plenty of time to "Sleep when they're dead." Instead, teachers need to be offering resources to students in order to help them get through the hustle and bustle of school and motivate their students in ways that will actually help them, not hurt them.