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Students should not sacrifice sleep for their grades

As startling as it may seem to Carnegie Mellon students, recent research proves that sleep is good.

Researchers at the University of Rochester discovered that, when a mammal sleeps, the process that the brain uses to remove accumulated natural toxic byproducts kicks into overdrive. Some toxins flushed from the system are responsible for plaque buildup found in the brains of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

The finding shows that the buildup of these byproducts causes most of the negative effects of lack of sleep. Grogginess, irritability, and trouble forming and accessing memories can be traced to this cleansing process. Even though the study reveals some of the causes of sleep deprivation’s symptoms, a so-called cure — a pill or other necessary medication — is unlikely to develop in the near future since, during sleep, the neurons contract to facilitate cleaning. Medication would have to cause or mimic this function.

This new information helps underscore what we already know: Sleep is one of the most important parts of being a healthy individual. Pulling all-nighters may have ramifications for not only the next day, but for years to come. While the study also indicated that excessive sleep is not good, the dangers of sleep deprivation are even more pronounced.

At Carnegie Mellon, students are not strangers to the phrase “sleep is for the weak,” especially as they push themselves to study harder and longer or squeeze in extra time for recreational activity. Unfortunately, this mindset often puts students’ grades before their health. Students ignore the fact that deteriorating health might lead to poor grades or worse.

If the ill effects of a lack of sleep don’t motivate students to get at least eight hours each night, the research also indicates that sleep helps people study. During sleep, the brain catalogs memories and makes sure that the most important ones are accessible. A good night’s sleep can be more effective than a night of cramming, and it’s certainly more appealing.