To your health

    With busy schedules and an increasing lack of time, it is hard not to cut corners on the amount of sleep you get each night. However, it must be realized that sleep is as essential for your well-being as food and water, and that a deficit of it can have serious physical and psychological consequences.

    “When we look at the physical part of sleep deprivation, it can slow down your reaction time and decrease your level of alertness,” said Dr. Brad Buchman, director of clinical services at Student Health Services. “These are also key elements that affect driving. Moreover, sleep deprivation causes an impaired mental process, as well as an impaired ability to learn. People can withstand short bursts of not sleeping, but they can’t sustain day after day, night after night of very little sleep. Lack of proper sleep sharply reduces your ability to assimilate new material, to process new information, to concentrate and to retain short-term memory. It is very difficult to keep things straight. The psychological consequences of little sleep include many symptoms, from being very irritable to being short-tempered.”

    With finals around the corner, you might laugh at the idea of getting enough sleep. But not doing so might seriously hurt your chances of acing that chemistry final or writing an excellent sociology paper. So exactly how much sleep should you be getting? Buchman believes that there is no magic number of hours — you simply have to find out through trial and error.

    The effects of sleep deprivation can be very harmful if gone unchecked. Some studies have shown that sleep deprivation can affect your body’s immune system in detrimental ways. The last thing you would want during finals week (or any week) is to get sick. Realistically, if you know you will not be getting enough sleep, try to make up for the loss as soon as possible.

    “If you must sleep a very short amount for a final, try to make it up as quickly as possible, especially if you have several finals in the week,” Buchman said. “Sleep deficit should be replaced as quickly as possible to minimize the consequences.”

    Recognizing the important side effects of a lack of sleep, try to spend a few more hours in your bed. In the end, you will be more refreshed and much more productive while getting tasks done. For more information on sleep deprivation, be sure to visit the Student Health Services Web site at http://studenthealth.ucsd.edu.

    Why am I sore after I work out at the gym? How can I prevent and treat it?

    — Anonymous

    We have all experienced sore muscles the day after we push ourselves a little too hard during a basketball game or lift too much in the weight room. This soreness and pain after a tough workout are caused by a variety of reasons, including a buildup of lactic acid in the muscles and the overworking of muscles.

    Lactic acid is released by anaerobic exercise. After a workout, there can be a buildup of lactic acid in muscles, which, in part, leads to soreness in muscles.

    “While doing aerobic conditioning or weightlifting, you’re definitely exerting sufficient force on the muscles that causes some micro-trauma and micro-injury to them,” Buchman said. “By lifting weights, you are pushing muscles beyond their ability to simply contract. You are initiating an inflammation and repair process. This inflammatory process produces a lot of chemicals or compounds that the nervous system picks up as signals, and perceives them as pain.”

    There are several ways to prevent soreness, including varying your exercise regimen, stretching, and not pushing yourself too hard if you are just starting to work out. If you are weight training, start off using lighter weights with higher repetitions. If you are running, go for a lesser duration and intensity. Stay well-hydrated and do not forget about stretching. Muscles adapt much faster than tendons do, so a bicep might get really strong and start pulling on tendons that are attached to the bone, which causes inflammation. This can be avoided by stretching. Also, don’t overtax the same muscle groups with the same exercises everyday.

    In addition, minimize your alcohol consumption, since the ability of the body to break down lactic acid and reduce soreness is decreased significantly by alcohol, which impairs the liver’s ability to carry out metabolic reactions.

    If you notice pain right after your workout, rest and ice the afflicted area for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times a day. Ice is most effective in the 72 hours following an injury. If tolerated, attempt a gentle range of motion in movement. If not allergic, consider taking Tylenol, Advil or Aleve, though you probably want to see a health care professional if symptoms persist.

    “Most muscle soreness peaks 48 hours after a workout,” Buchman said. “It may persist for up to a week, but it should start tapering down after the first 48 hours. Things should gradually get better over the next one-to-two weeks as long as you do not keep provoking it. If soreness continues after more than a week, you might consider being seen by a health care provider.”

    For more information on muscle soreness or to set up an appointment with a health care provider, visit the Student Health Services Web site at http://studenthealth.ucsd.edu.

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