To study or to sleep? A college student’s dilemma

27 Nov
Rachael Holt is a sophomore majoring in journalism at the University of Florida. Her interest in sleep medicine comes from her father who is the director of a sleep clinic in her hometown of Tallahassee, Fla. Rachael is passionate about writing and hopes to use her communication skills to  become a teacher one day.

Rachael Holt is a sophomore majoring in journalism at the University of Florida. Her interest in sleep medicine comes from her father who is the director of a sleep clinic in her hometown of Tallahassee, Fla. Rachael is passionate about writing and hopes to use her communication skills to become a teacher one day.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Rachael Holt

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that not enough sleep is bad.

We’ve all looked at ourselves after a desperate all-nighter.  Pale, pimple-dotted skin and baggy eyes are common symptoms of sleep deprivation.

But, did you know that staying up too late studying for your next anatomy exam can actually hurt your grade?

According to studies conducted by the University of Florida and the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation has a negative effect on health, fact retention and the ability to focus.

“When you’re sleep deprived, you’re not going to get as much studying done in the same amount of time,” said Jane Emmerée, a certified health education specialist at GatorWell, a wellness education and research center at UF.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for college students. But, according to the GatorWell website, about 90 percent of college students report regular sleep difficulties, and the average sleep length for college students has decreased by more than an hour since 1969.

Lack of sleep negatively affects a person’s ability to recall information, which is why the night of cramming may only snag a mediocre grade.

Robert Stickgold, a professor psychiatry at Harvard medical school, said sleep strengthens and stabilizes information, integrates new concepts with ones previously learned and picks memories to get rid of or preserve.

“For every hour we’re awake, it takes about a half hour at night to process that information,” Stickgold said.

Brianna Bowman, an anthropology senior, said she learned her lesson the hard way. Her escalating stress levels called for a change of pace.

“I used to think I should stay up all night studying,” Bowman said.

Bowman  said she recently learned about the negative effects and changed her study routine to ensure she would get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep before an exam.

Bowman and Emmerée also stressed the importance of state-dependent learning.

“Study in the same state you take your test in,” Bowman said.

If a normal study session includes four cups of coffee and the morning of the exam does not, your brain is affected by the change.

Although the research constantly points to the benefits of sleep, 45 percent of adults still say they sleep less in order to accomplish more, according the 2013 Sleep in America study by the National Sleep Foundation.

Lindsey Grigsby, a third-year math and physics major, regularly procrastinates on her essays for class.

“I have to stay up to finish it,” Grigsby said.

After a hard night of intense studying, Megan Griffin, journalism major, was invited to climb trees at 3 a.m. Despite having a calculus quiz at 8:30 a.m., she accepted the offer, and it was an experience she will never forget.

“Needless to say, I failed,” Griffin said.

Tips for managing sleep on a tight bedtime budget:

  1. Avoid caffeine at night, and limit it during the day. Switching from coffee to tea is one technique used to wean off of the lattes.
  2. Skip alcohol before bed. Although you may think it helps you pass out, your sleep isn’t as deep.
  3. Stick to a strict sleep schedule. try to go to sleep at the same time every weekday.
  4. Ok this next one is tough: Don’t sleep in on weekends or days when you have late class; wake up close to the same time every day. Try waking up and doing something you like (i.e. watching cartoons) instead of staying in bed on the weekends.
  5. Put books and homework away at least 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime, give your mind time to relax.
  6. Don’t study or work on your computer in bed. When you try to go to sleep, your mind may be subconsciously associating your bed with stress.
  7. Exercise earlier in the day, never just before bed.
  8. Don’t watch TV just before bed, again your mind needs to rest. Also, do not keep the TV on while you’re asleep.
  9. If needed, sleep with earplugs and use an eye pillow to drown out any bright lights and the noise of loud roommates or dorm mates.
  10. Turn out the lights when it’s time to go to bed; a bright room will keep you awake. This includes laptop and phone screens!

 Layman’s Terms Media Related Links:

Warning: One all-nighter can throw off circadian rhythms

Too much light exposure can cause depression, learning issues

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: