A new semester is here, and for most of us that means a return to lectures, study sessions and paper-writing. For far too many, however, returning to school also means returning to a lifestyle that involves far less sleep than we should be getting.
I’ve noticed that discussing the lack of sleep
you get is almost a competition among college students. Getting just three or four hours’ worth of sleep in a night is a badge of honor that gives the wearer bragging rights for the rest of the week. Those who pull all-nighters are gods among men.
We seem to be under the impression that getting so little sleep to study or finish writing a paper is a sign of greater commitment to education.
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But, sleep isn’t for the weak…it’s for everybody
Deep down, though, we’re all aware that our worst sleep habits aren’t truly sources of pride (or at least, that they shouldn’t be).
While we know that getting too little sleep can have long-term consequences and physical effects
, including overeating, increased risk of heart disease and diabetes and impaired judgment when driving. Most of us likely aren’t familiar with the emotional and educational disadvantages caused by sleep deprivation
You know how sometimes you feel prickly, like everything and everyone is ten times more irritating than usual? Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania
found that sleep deprivation caused individuals to feel considerably more stressed out, angry, depressed and anxious than the research participants who were allowed nine hours of sleep.
Those particular research subjects were only deprived of sleep for two nights, so you can imagine the potential emotional effects of depriving yourself of sleep long-term.
You may want to rethink staying up late to study for a test: sleep deprivation has a serious impact on your ability to absorb and retain information. It interferes with all three learning processes—acquisition, consolidation and recall—and prevents you from learning.
, also from the University of Pennsylvania, indicates that sleep deprivation results in the loss of locus coeruleus neurons, brain cells that play a crucial role in alertness and cognition. In other words, too many late nights spent cramming can actually work against you in terms of learning and even functioning.
The difficult truth is that the key to getting more sleep in college is to budget your waking hours more effectively. If you find that you spent too much time on distracting websites, consider using an app or extension that will block those websites for however long you want.
If you lose time to socialization, turn a coffee date into a study date or let your friend know ahead of time that you can only hang out for an hour before you have to leave—telling somebody about your plan will hopefully keep you accountable.
Now that you know a little more about the immediate effects of sleep deprivation, it will be easier for you to make a couple of resolutions for the new semester.
Go to bed within an hour or 90 minutes of the same time each night, even on the weekends, and make sure you block off enough time that you can sleep for at least seven hours.
Oh, and that magical eight-hour number you’ve always heard recommended? It isn’t necessarily the best for everyone
When you start getting more sleep and sleep that’s consistent from night to night, you’ll probably find that you feel healthier physically and more stable emotionally. You’ll also be rested enough during the day to get all your schoolwork done, keeping you from having to stay up late finishing projects and papers and—of course—you’ll no longer feel the need to compete with your peers in the game of Who’s the Most Tired.