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Up all night

Student life and sleep deprivation go hand-in-hand, but at what cost?


“If you leave it to the last minute, it only takes a minute” was a favourite motto of mine during undergrad. Well, perhaps I shouldn’t say “favourite” so much as “realistic”. Like any good undergraduate student, I pushed the limits of procrastination, and perfected the art of working to deadlines. As I ignored my old friend sleep, I found new companions in coffee, green tea, and harsh lighting.

Study after study, however, highlights the importance of sleep in restoring the brain’s full functions for the coming day. For young adults in particular, eight hours remains the recommended amount of Zs in order to maintain physical and mental wellbeing, according to physicians and sleep scientists.

But students are some of the worst culprits when it comes to ignoring this advice. Several recent studies in the U.S. indicate that college students are among the most likely segments of the population to be afflicted with sleeping problems. A recent study undertaken by researchers at Brown University and College of the Holy Cross in the United States found that one quarter of college students suffer from sleep deprivation. At Stanford University, researchers found that 80 percent of their student body is “dangerously sleep deprived.”

The consequences of sleep deprivation might be more serious than simply forgetting a few key dates on your history final. The list of side effects is seemingly endless, including everything from impaired judgment to weight gain. In extreme cases, chronic sleep deficits have been linked with diabetes, heart disease, and depression.

Not to mention the negative effects sleep deprivation has on students’ grades. Hasmeena Kathuria, an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University, recently told BU Today that staying up all night before an exam is “like taking an exam legally drunk.”  She went on to explain that nearly two thirds of car accidents are related to sleep deprivation, and that the average age of falling asleep at the wheel is 20.

At Lawrence University in New York, researcher Pamela Thacher came to similar conclusions in a 2007 study, and found that students who regularly pulled all-nighters had lower GPAs than their more rested counterparts.

The all-nighter, however, is not the sole factor contributing to students’ sleep deprivation. As insomnia becomes a more prominent problem among young adults, it is linked increasingly with our wired way of life. The light of an LCD screen has come under fire for the intrusions it makes in regular sleeping patterns. In a 2011 poll of 1,500 adult Americans conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, researchers found that 95 percent of those reporting sleep problems watched television or used cell phones and laptops in bed. Writers at Scientific American call it “cell phone insomnia,” and explain that a phone can disrupt brain waves, even while sleeping.

So next time you are contemplating an all-nighter, switch off that smartphone (as much as it pains us to say that at OOHLALA!) and take a minute to consider one of the many reasons why you might be better catching a few extra winks than hitting the 24-hour library.

Image courtesy of students.com 

New study finds students not huge drain on public coffers

According to a new study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, postsecondary students do pay the full cost of their post-secondary degrees. The study flies in the face of many critics who often claim student tuition is heavily subsidized by public funds.

Check out coverage from the Canadian Federation of Students for more information.

Navigating the email age

From “netiquette” to an “Email Charter,” web gurus are prescribing the do’s and don’ts of communication in the 21st century

[caption id="attachment_495" align="aligncenter" width="406" caption="As the letter faces near extinction, have we lost all sense of courtesy and etiquette?"][/caption]

Think of history’s great love stories, and what comes to mind? (Well, apart from all the brooding looks and intrigue and dagger wielding). I can't help but think of letters. Until a few decades ago, hand-written correspondence was the basis for any worthwhile courtship.

In today’s age of email, SMS, and 140-character limits, the letter - romantic or otherwise - has nearly given up the ghost. There is much to decry about its downfall. No more rushing to check the mailbox, or fumbling with a letter opener. Now I’m excited simply to receive coupons in the mail.

But the most alarming development to come out of the letter’s demise is a loss of style and etiquette. Still in its infancy, email communication is casual by nature, making it a veritable minefield for style missteps. It’s not unusual to receive a message written entirely in lower case - or the dreaded colored font - and writers often stumble over whether to open with a formal ‘Dear’ or opt for a more casual ‘Hi.’

Believe it or not, some have made it their mission to instate etiquette in the age of email. They call it “netiquette.”

“How you will be perceived, the type of human being that you are or for that matter are not, your credibility and your levels of professionalism and ethics will be judged by how you choose to communicate with others online,” writes Judith Kallos, creator of NetManners.com

Her remedy? Follow ten common courtesies for email communication, including avoiding all caps, and ignoring nasty emails.

According to some, however, it’s not a loss of etiquette that is so alarming, but an increase in volume. Take Chris Anderson, curator of TED Talks, who has drafted an Email Charter to combat the deluge that is constantly flooding our inboxes. Calling it an “idea worth spreading,” Anderson’s manifesto started out as a blog post that was quickly read by more than 45,000 people.

The Charter prescribes 10 commandments for email writers, including the need to respect recipients’ time - the fundamental rule - and to adopt abbreviations such as “NNTR”: no need to reply.

While salutations may vary from paper to screen (one friend signs emails with “love and bacon”), it is clear that the inherent spirit of the email should remain much the same as its predecessor, the letter. To be sure, the need for etiquette and courtesy in communication will only increase as we become more and more digitized.

But maybe once in a while, you should switch off, pick up a pen, lick a stamp, and send a letter.

Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution/Flickr

What campus spirit is all about!


Hats off to UBC! Awesome work guys :D


The Invention of Waterloo

By all accounts, Canadian tech darling RIM has a grim future ahead of it. Fallout from the network crash and dismal sales of its Playbook tablet are just two of a growing number of setbacks cropping up for the Ontario-based innovator in recent months. And as more users find alternatives to BlackBerry Messengers, the switch to Android and iPhone is taking place in droves.

But RIM didn't always find itself in such dire straits. As many well remember, until June 2011 - when revenue began to plummet and jobs were slashed - the makers of the BlackBerry were the brightest beacon on Canada's burgeoning tech map. A lot of RIM's prowess has to do with the company's roots in Southern Ontario, and in particular in the town of Waterloo.  In its most recent issue, The Walrus magazine charts the unique growth of the mid-sized town from Rubber Capital of Canada to Silicon North, were some 450 tech companies now base their operations.

If you're Ontario born-and-bred, the prevalence of the Waterloo region may come as no surprise. But whether you're well-versed in the beginnings of Canada's Technology Triangle, or simply interested in whether RIM does in fact have a viable future (and writer Don Gillmor certainly makes a convincing case in the company's favour), "The Invention of Waterloo" is worth a gander.

Happy reading!

We got deadlines to meet

It's January, and that can only mean one thing for fourth year students: grad applications. That's right, just when you thought you could pat yourself on the back for completing four years of all-nighters, Kraft Dinner and endless readings, you have to turn around and apply for more study.

To be sure, many undergrads go on to jobs - or at least unpaid internships - in the so-called "real world." But in today's ultra-competitive job market, the grad degree is becoming increasingly commonplace.

So for all you grad applicants out there, take a break from those personal statements to check out what doctoral student Adam Ruben had to say about higher education in the New York Times. Or, just watch his hilarious - and telling - rap on YouTube.


The year ahead: bendable screens, Sean Parker, and a final farewell

When we think of the year 2011 two decades from now, what will come to mind?

RIM’s fall from grace? Social media and the Arab Spring? #Occupy? The late, great Steve Jobs?

My vote is for Apple’s visionary co-founder - a modern day Thomas Edison if there ever was one. But I suspect that instead of mourning his loss, Mr. Jobs would urge us to look toward the future. Indeed, in a world full of sluggish economies, the booming tech industry could prove to be North America’s key to a new century of prosperity - or at least creativity.

So, what does 2012 have in store for all things silicon? Sean Parker (of Napster and, more recently, Justin Timberlake fame) recently told Reuters that 2012 will be all about social media’s power for political and social change. Mashable founder Pete Cashmore predicts a slew of trends for the coming year, the most intriguing of which include NFC - or Near Field Communication - enabled phones for credit card payments, and flexible - yes, I’m talking bendable - screens for phones and tablets. Surprisingly, at least to seldom users such as me, saw a spike in traffic in December. Now with more than 60 million users, according to at least one analyst, maybe 2012 will not, in fact, spell the end of this social networking experiment.  

Here at OOHLALA, we’ve got quite a few projects in the works that we can barely wait to unveil. While we can’t say much yet, we can tell you that we’re living and working by words of wisdom from Mr. Jobs - and Wayne Gretzky, to be exact:

“There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’” - Steve Jobs, 2007

Bring it on, 2012.


Photo: Guardian.co.uk