Kill Your Sleep Deprivation

By: Colleen Bidwill

I’m tired. I have been since winter break. I’ve developed some attractive bags under my eyes. These days, my friends act as my alarm clock, frantically shaking me awake or jumping on my bed. The problem with that alarm is I can’t hit the snooze button. You’d think persistent phone calls would suffice. The current record is 15 unanswered calls while I happily snoozed.

I know I’m not the only one who goes through this. You might say the solution is easy: just sleep more. But whoever suggests that is clearly not in college. In college, we have social lives, academics, extracurriculars, and little time left after all that for sleep. Unfortunately, we’re not Energizer bunnies, and something has to suffer.

But, being sleep deprived means more than feeling exhausted. Susan Scholl, a health and wellness professor, says it affects our brain.

“The brain is clearly impacted: reactions slow, decision-making becomes murky, our thought process overall is not as sharp,” Scholl said. “For some people, falling asleep in meetings, in the classroom or behind the wheel of a car is common. Scary!”

Want to avoid this? The solution is simple: Curl up and take a nap.

Dr. Olaf Lahl of the University of Dusseldorf in Germany researched the effectiveness of naps on the body, and his study was published in the the Journal of Sleep Research. He found that brief daytime naps, ones that last even just six minutes, are enough to improve a person’s recall memory and memory processing. You think you’re being productive by spending the night in the library before a test and pulling an all nighter. In actuality, most of that information will be gone before you take the test, because your body hasn’t gotten the sleep it needs to be able to process it.

So, we resort to caffeine. And although you may think it is okay to compensate for our lack of sleep with caffeine and 5-hour energy shots, it isn’t. Do yourself a favor and put down the Starbucks cup. (And I know that’s hard, I’m a coffee junkie.)  In a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers reported that 75 percent of children surveyed consumed caffeine on a daily basis and the more caffeine the children consumed, the less they slept. So, although it may wake you up, it prevents you from sleeping. Counter productive, much?

It doesn’t take much to fix the problem. Scholl says that although it is recommended for 6 to 8 hours of sleep, everyone is biologically different and may need more or less sleep, but it is the sleep that is important.

“When sleep deprived, get one good night’s sleep,” she said. “We really don’t need to ‘make up’ for sleep.”

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