By Dorothy Parvaz
Arizona Daily Wildcat September 20, 1996
Oh, foolish young Grasshopper ...
Whether or not you're new at this college student thing, what you don't know about getting enough sleep will definitely hurt you. As a freshman or sophomore, most of the sleep you'll lose will probably be due to your active social life. Newer students a re generally more involved in campus life, but as academia bears down on them, nocturnal fun is replaced by nocturnal studying. Either way, sleep is lost.
"I got three hours last night, but I aim for six," said Ernest Ocha, an education sophomore. That's not nearly enough.
Why do you need sleep?
OK, you know, somehow, that you need sleep. But how vital is it to your health? The short answer: very. The slightly longer answer: without enough sleep, you will fall apart, both physically and mentally.
You might have noticed that when you wake up after a whopping three or four hours of sleep, you feel slightly nauseous, almost as though you're hung-over, or are extremely dehydrated. Your eyes have that crunchy bloodshot look and chances are, your nec k and shoulders feel sore. All this is happening to you because your body didn't get the chance to repair itself during the night. Yes, sleep is more than just you lying down, closing your eyes, and drooling on your pillow. While you're dreaming of sh owing up to your sociology class buck naked, your body is doing what it can to repair the wear and tear of previous day.
What happens when you don't sleep enough?
Disrupting what scientists call your "sleep architecture" on a regular basis is just begging for trouble. Your sleeping patterns, by the way, include both REM (that rapid eye movement dream state) and non-REM sleep, both of which are required for you to b e (and hence feel) well rested. In fact, non-REM sleep takes up a major chink of your slumber time. This period is when your heart rate and respiration slow down, your blood pressure drops. It's also when your body carries out most of its restorative proc esses.
Other than feeling a bit on the weak side, what's the worst that could happen to poor little sleep-deprived you? Lots. For starters, your immune system will suffer. You just won't be able to fend off colds, or whatever other viruses come your way as effec tively as a well-rested person. Your digestive system will be sluggish (why waste energy digesting food?) , as well your blood circulation, leaving you with sore shoulders and legs. Mentally, it doesn't get much better. Your ability to make logical decis ions is highly impaired, and your moods are unstable. It also doesn't help you deal with stress.
Caffeine may seem like your friend, but a cup of Java, no matter how good it tastes going down, is no substitute for sleep. Drinking anywhere between 8 to 10 cups a day, can lead to what is known as acute caffeine poisoning. This, of course, depends on ho w strong the coffee you drink is and how your metabolism works. Symptoms of acute caffeine poisoning range from delirium and restlessness to tremors and vomiting. Consuming too much caffeine can also magnify the effects of sleep deprivation as it reduces your chances of getting back into your normal (read: healthy) sleeping habits.
How much sleep do you need?
There are those lucky few who need no more than five hours of sleep, but most of us need a bit more than that. According to the National Sleep Foundation, seven to nine hours of sleep is ideal for most. This may seem impossible, but at least aim for it. T ry to plan ahead and make time for yourself.
"I have earplugs and turn on my fan to keep the noise out of my dorm room," said Rebecca Zilm, a molecular and cellular biology freshman, who gets eight hours of sleep every night. She also pointed out that she only keeps decaffeinated sodas in her dorm r oom.
She has the right idea. All-nighters are a part of college life, but they should be the exception, not the rule.
OK, OK, so you're the busy type and don't have eight hours a night to blow on sleeping. Don't despair, You're not alone. Here are some tips to help you get by:
- Take what NASA researchers call "Strategic naps," or naps that last 20, 60 or 80 minutes. Anywhere in between will mess up your sleep cycles. Good enough for NASA, good enough for you.
- When you do get the chance to get some shut-eye, do what you can to make sure your sleep is uninterrupted (turn off the ringer on your phone, use earplugs, etc. ...).
- About an hour or so before you plan to go to bed, avoid being around very bright lights (anything brighter than a reading light is too bright). Also stay away from the television. Both of these impede your ability to fall asleep quickly.
- Avoid large doses of vitamin C close to bed time, since it'll only perk you up.