Health Corner: The Importance of Sleep


BY DANA REYNOLDS – STAFF WRITER

What is the one thing that almost all college students are lacking? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out, it is most definitely sleep. But between hard classes, exams, sports practices, choir, student government, etc., how are we supposed to make time?

Like everyone else on the campus, I am definitely not getting enough sleep. I stay up too late, stress too much, and wake up too early. However after doing some research, I have realized that I really need to make sure that I am setting aside time to sleep.

In a CBS News special with Matthew Walker, the Director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at the University of California-Berkley, he conducted a sleep experiment on a group of five college students. After being awake for more than 24 hours, Walker found that the students performed 40 percent worse when memorizing flashcards, showing that staying up later to try to crank out a few more hours of studying may not actually be helping you in the long run. Walker claims that sleep actually enhances your memory—allowing you to come back the next day even better than you were the day before.

In a study at the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine, scientists paid several different subjects to test for chronic partial sleep deprivation. Chronic sleep deprivation occurs when a person routinely sleeps less than the amount required for optimal functioning. The patients received only four hours of sleep for a week and a half. During the day, scientists ran a variety of test on these patients. Even after only the first night of deprived sleep, they found that patients could not think fast, react quickly, or remember things.

After watching the news special on sleep and reading different studies, I decided to conduct an experiment of my own. I asked students on Centre’s campus how much sleep they averaged per night. I was surprised by my results. Almost everyone I talked to claimed that they averaged anywhere from seven to eight hours a night—the recommended amount.

Photographer: Judi Zhang

Photographer: Judi Zhang

First-year Evan Doyle understands the importance of sleep.

“When I don’t get enough sleep I feel awful and unproductive until I finally catch up on sleep,” he said. “I average seven to eight hours a night, but I’ll throw in an hour or so of naps a day.”

Unfortunately for first-year Haley Varnadoe, the transition to maintaining the rigorous workload has caused her to get less sleep.

“I have been getting around six hours of sleep,” she said. “When I get less than seven, I have a hard time staying awake in classes. Plus it messes up my eating schedule, so I am always hungry when I do not sleep.”

Senior Laura Tan claimed that she suffered from sleep deprivation during her sophomore spring term.

“I averaged four hours a day and it was horrible,” she said. “Walking the small incline from Grant to Young was a daily struggle after a week. I was not even able to fall asleep because I would worry about not getting enough sleep.”

After a tough sophomore spring semester, Tan has transformed her sleeping habits. She now averages between six to eight hours of sleep.

“I feel like I pay enough attention in class because I am not sleepy all the time,” she said.

Unlike most of the students across campus that I have talked to, I do not usually get my recommended seven to eight hours. This is something I am trying to challenge myself to change and if you are in the same boat, you should do the same.

If you are trying to catch some more Z’s, here are three helpful tips that can make you sleep better:

  1. Stop using your cell phone, computer, and electronic devices thirty minutes before you go to sleep. The lights block melatonin which helps you fall asleep. Instead, let yourself unwind by reading a book or stretching.
  2. Limit your caffeine. This is much easier said than done, but it could help.
  3. It will make you sleep better at night.

Getting more sleep will make you feel better and more productive in the long run, so kep that in mind the next time you consider pulling an all-nighter.

 

 


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