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