With the arrival of finals week comes the farewell to a good night’s rest–at least that’s how college students see it. Pulling all-nighters to cram for exams is the typical practice for the busy college student, and when it comes to getting that A or getting some Z’s, most will choose books over bed.
USC senior, Christina Shepard, says she has learned from her previous exam weeks in college that she needs to make getting a healthy night’s sleep a bigger priority.
“I used to think like that, pulling all-nighters, but then I would go home for winter break or summer and I would sleep for like the whole first week” Shepard said.
Studies show that it is more beneficial for a student’s memory recall to get a full night of sleep, rather than staying up late cramming for exams. Sleep is cyclical in nature. Of the stages, REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, helps with higher function thinking such as deciphering integrated questions and making connections between new information and old.
But it is not just our memory that is affected by lack of sleep. Doctor William C. McLain, a pulmonary physician with SleepMed, says that when you don’t get enough sleep you can suffer from weakened vision, slow reaction times, diminished appearance, a compromised immune system, mood swings, and impaired driving.
USC sophomore, Mary Mitchell, learned the hard way about the dangerous side effects of putting off sleep on a drive home after finals.
“I was kinda tired, I had been putting off sleep. I started to doze in traffic and my foot came off the brake. That’s when I rear-ended the car in front of me” Mitchell said.
Luckily, Mitchell was not hurt in the accident, but the message of the importance of sleep became clear to her then.
“I didn’t really think that staying up all night would lead to me falling asleep while doing something that I do all the time like driving,” Mitchell said.
But Dr. McLain says that Mitchell is not alone in her misconception of sleep.
“I would say that one of the main problems with college students is that they think that sleep is negotiable,” Dr. McLain said. “You need to take care of your sleep, as one of the psychiatrist said, ‘sleep is precious.’”
According to the National Sleep Foundation, going 24 hours without sleep is the equivalent of having a blood alcohol content of .10, which is .02 over the BAC that defines being legally drunk. It holds the same effect as drinking five 12-ounce beers in just one hour. That means that students who stay up all night before a final, then drive home immediately after, are putting themselves in great danger.
In addition to studying, the constant need for college students to feel connected to others through social media affects the quality and quantity of sleep by overstimulating the brain. The light from media screens suppresses melatonin, the sleep inducing hormone. Doctors recommend something called an “electric sundown”–turning off all gadgets at least an hour before bedtime, so that your natural sleep system can turn on.
But in true modern-day technology fashion, there’s an app for that. SmartAlarm is an app for the iPhone and Androids that defines what a good night of sleep is. The app helps people wake up at the appropriate times without disrupting REM sleep. Once the user activates the motion sensor of the program, the app uses thephone’s accelerometer to track slight movements while you sleep. You simply place the phone next to yourself (or under your pillow) while you sleep, and SmartAlarm does the rest. By monitoring your sleep movement, the app can predict when your REM sleep stage is over and alert you to wake up once your brain is well-rested.
Although studies and experts can explain why sleeping is important, whether or not students will take heed is another issue in itself. Giving the brain and the body the sleep it needs is essential to a students’ overall health and academic career.
Do you think that college students are too often neglecting the importance of sleep? Join the discussion below!