I don’t think there is a student who isn’t thankful for the break this past weekend. Indulging in a four-day food-fest and getting plenty of R&R; was what everyone needed, and we happily shelved our textbooks and let the good times roll with friends and family.
But, now, back on campus, we haven’t just returned to the steady routine of takeout and five hours of sleep per night — we’re also one step closer to finals.
We all know how the next few weeks will go: Hit the books for a solid night of studying for the econ final, take the next day off and get catch-up sleep, pull another all-nighter for the psych final. Lather, rinse, repeat, until all exams are done.
We all do it — in fact, 63 percent of college students are sleep-deprived, according to the National Sleep Foundation. But a day or two of catch-up sleep doesn’t reverse the damage done by those all-nighters, and as we’re planning our study schedules, we need to be aware of the ramifications. A team of Penn scientists is currently working to reduce the cognitive effects of sleep deprivation, but until they do, one fact stands out to me: It can take over a week of uninterrupted nighttime sleep to fully recover from the effects of one ill-timed all-nighter.
James Maas, a professor of psychology at Cornell and anti-sleep-deprivation crusader, says the toll on students pulling all-nighters is often students wandering through the twilight zone during daytime and nodding out at times when you definitely need to be cognizant, like during classes.
Students recognize the effects of their actions. “After two all-nighters in a row, I get hazy and it’s difficult to concentrate in class,” said Rebecca Caldwell, a College senior. It’s difficult for us to change our behavior, though.
So let’s put the effects bluntly. Creative juices will dry up and your vocabulary will drop to pre-SAT class lows. Concentration and communicative skills will diminish, hindering class and exam performance. And (probably the toughest effect) you will most assuredly put on weight
Sleep-deprivation causes your hormone levels to drop, making your appetite, especially for sweets, surge. One of Maas’ statistics shows that if you frequently get six hours of sleep as opposed to seven to nine hours you are 23 percent more likely to become obese.
If you’ve formed a mental image of your average sleep deprived person as a droopy-eyed over-weight bumbling zombie, you’ve got the point.
So how can we sleep-deprived individuals mend our ways? Some possible solutions:
Let’s make a few early New Year’s resolutions, to balance out our schedules, to start with. Finals are a prime time for formals and end-of-semester BYO trips, but maybe go to an event on Thursday and stay in and study on Saturday (or vice versa) for a few weeks.
And when you have a gap between classes, you might try and resist the temptation to catnap. Throw yourself into VP and force yourself to get an hour or two of studying in. That way, you’ll be able to get longer, and therefore better quality, sleep that night.
Maas also advocates establishing a strict sleep routine — getting up and going to bed at the same time each day. It might suck to get up at 9:00 when you don’t have class until noon on Wednesdays, but you could be gaining extra study time and better sleep. It’s a win-win situation.
Until those Penn scientists figure out how to have us function on less sleep, we humans need to have the good sense to know when to call it a day. After all, even Starbucks closes at 2 a.m.
Maya Brandon is a College freshman from West Windsor, N.J. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.Comments powered by Disqus
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