Are you getting enough sleep?

By Brittany Walder
Staff Writer

College is a time of many changes. Not only is the homework stacking up, more bills are coming in, exercise is seldom, and a perpetual rain cloud seems to be hovering over the average college student just waiting to pile on the stress. The last thing most students think about is getting an adequate amount of sleep. Yet getting those recommended eight hours a night can be exactly what students need to relax, regroup, and get some of these burdening tasks accomplished.

It can be hard for younger students to settle down at 10 p.m. when there’s so much to do; those who aren’t grinding their teeth at the thought of research papers, tests, and assignments are probably struggling to find the time to cool off and unwind with friends. For others, college is the equivalent of new freedom, and they just want to live up every moment, even if that means crashing at four in the morning, mere hours before class.

For older students and those who have families of their own to take care of, it can be difficult to manage a household, find time for school, and call it a night as well. Everyone has their share of responsibilities. Getting enough rest is the key to finding time for everything.

Relax:

A good night’s rest may seem impossible if you’re stressing over it. The first thing you need to do is realize that whatever work you’re going to try to cram in during the wee hours of the morning runs a high chance of being flimsy. You may forget key facts that could sum up your work. Or your ability to link concepts together could suffer. Unless you’re a night owl by nature (according to msn.com, only 10% of adults physically need less than or more than the recommended hours of sleep), you’re only going to push out sloppy work that says nothing of your full potential. Realize that after a night’s rest, you’re brain has time to regenerate. You’ll function better and work better.

Partying hard doesn’t mean partying late:

OK, so the myth goes that all of the fun happens at night. All of the bad guys in movies creep along the shadows. All of the best parties take place in the after hours. There’s some sort of stereotyped appeal about life being more edgy after the sun goes down. You might think that after sitting in class all day and burning up energy at night that you’ll crash into sweet dreams. Wrong. High-energy activity before bed time, including exercising, partying, and running around the house like a maniac as you look for research material, can slow the process significantly. You’re more likely to find yourself lying awake staring at the ceiling, and waking in the morning sore and exhausted. Experts suggest that any high-energy activity is best utilized in the morning, so that the body has time to relax. This actually is more effective than sleep medications, and can leave you feeling better rested.

You could be a zombie. You might not even know it.

Just because you guzzled 160z of Monster this morning and felt great all day doesn’t mean that you were “alert” and “rested” and “didn’t/don’t need” sleep. Besides being a heart-attacks in a can, energy drinks leave you incredibly wired, but don’t put your body through the processes it needs to rejuvenate and function properly. Sleep builds T cells that protect the body against infections and illnesses. It also helps your will power kick in so that you can control impulses to eat when you’re not really hungry. You may have sprinted through the day like Speed Racer, but eventually that caffeine and sugar fix is going to send you into withdrawal. Without the sleep needed to boost your memory and alertness, you’ll probably be shuffling like a George A. Romero extra by week’s end–or day’s end.

Health is powered by sleep. Sleep is powered by health:

It’s Shakespearean, really; but did you know that difficulties sleeping may indicate other health issues? Your overall health is affected by the amount of sleep you get each night. It’s a vital part of being able to function properly and remain both mentally and physically healthy. Difficulty sleeping or a desire to sleep too much also says something about your body. An excessive intake of carbohydrates before bedtime, or an overall inadequate diet, can affect your ability to sleep soundly or at appropriate times. Finding balance in all of life’s activities is essentially to being productive.

Seven to eight hours a day, seven days a week:

Considering that the average modern American gets less than six hours of sleep a night (that’s 42 hours a week), but works on average 40 hours a week, that’s not a lot of make-up time filling the gap. If people can go to work and cite obligations, necessity, and health (as in not starving due to lack of grocery money) as reasons for trudging through a full-time job on top of college, why is it so hard to reward themselves with rest? It’s easy to toss a Hershey bar in the shopping cart and cite it as a “reward,” but people often forget that sleep is one of the most beneficial rewards (and it’s free). It’s recommended that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, and it helps if there’s a consistent schedule. It puts the body into a cycle that maximizes the benefits of resting. So ditch the energy drinks, drop the books a little early, and get some sleep. It’s guaranteed to revitalize your health and energy and add a little kick to your staggering routine.

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