August 14, 2020

Here’s to Your Health: Sleepless in Providence No More

posted on: Thursday October 7, 2010

Meg O’Neill ’12 / Sports Staff

You run into Ray coming from your 11:20-12:45 class in Feinstein, grab a sandwich from Sue, scarf it down while still walking to get a drink, grab a to-go cup for your second cup of coffee of the day, and head to Harkins. You proceed to have another hour-and-fifteen minute class, a group meeting by PC Perk to discuss who is sending the PowerPoint slides to whom, run upstairs and attend a cardio-sculpt class at the gym, run back down to Slavin and get some salad from the salad bar and of course another cup of coffee, and obviously your PC I.D. refuses to swipe (take a breath here).

By the time you make it back to the Suites, it is 7:30 p.m. and you are ready to crash. As you sit on the couch your brain proceeds to enter panic mode as you run through your never-ending mental to-do list.

As college students, you know the drill. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” We make promises to ourselves that we will get to bed early tonight and not burn the candle at both ends tomorrow. But what ends up happening, besides an uncontrollable eye twitch and several empty coffee cups on the kitchen table? Your body takes a beating.

Everyone is told to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. I know what you are thinking: “Excuse me, Mr. Surgeon General, you and your warnings can go drown in the Huxley River.” How is it possible for a college student to get that much sleep every night? Between classes and clubs, homework and happy hour, the likelihood of getting a good night’s rest seems dismal. But here is some food for thought.

We have all been there: the study session that lasted until 3:30 a.m. for your 8:30 a.m. exam. You are so jacked up from all the caffeine and adrenaline that you somehow make it through the test alive. But what about the rest of the day? In your 11:30 philosophy class, you start to play what I like to call “the thinker.” You put your head in your palm, tilt your body in your chair ever so slightly so your eyes are not seen in the professor’s glance, and pretend to write and read in a very intense way. You know you are drifting off to sleep, the professor knows you are drifting off to sleep, but somehow you still continue to play this game.

This needs to stop. Because guess what? You just missed what will be on Friday’s exam because you were too tired to listen since you were up too late studying too much for a test you already knew enough information about.

When you get enough sleep your brain is able to recall memory faster, which is very useful for that exam. It also allows you to improve your ability to learn. You are much more alert and able to perform tasks quicker and easier. Also, you will have a more content disposition in general. A lack of sleep leaves you feeling irritable and thus more likely to snap when Ray runs out of Lucky Charms.

When you sleep, your body builds up hormones that fight off disease, strengthening your immune system. Sleep deprivation, in turn, can make that common cold a really common occurrence for you. It can even make you eat poorly too. It is no coincidence that as hours of sleep are reduced, pounds on the scale are increased. There is a physiological connection, and I am sure my physiology teacher, Dr. Wan, would expect me to go into more detail, but I will not bore you with such protein/hormone talk.

And what’s more: you cannot just make up for lost time. By sleeping only five hours last night, your body is going to be affected. It will not simply be negated by sleeping late Saturday morning, because your classes and homework have already been affected the previous days leading up to the weekend. And if you think that napping is simply an alternative to a full night of rest, you are mistaken. A quick nap that does not last for more than an hour might help your mood and create a little more focus during the afternoon hours, but naps that exceed an hour make it harder for you to get on with your day and can make it harder to fall asleep at night, despite being exhausted.

So the bottom line is: GO TO SLEEP. Stop making excuses about work and homework and everything else under the sun. Those things will take care of themselves. Now it is up to you to take care of yourself. Stay healthy, Friartown. For more information, check out this report by the National Institute of Health: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf.

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