College students should choose sleep over cramming

By on February 19, 2013
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The fast-paced life of college students leaves little time for rest. Often college students have to choose between rigorous academics, having an active social life, doing extracurricular activities, and sleeping. Needless to say, college students often start off their days bleary-eyed, clutching a Starbucks cup, and nodding off during an 8 a.m. lecture. Studies show that stress about school and life keep 68 percent of students awake at night.

Sleeping-Hours

Sleep experts say that the amount of sleep people need is largely dependent on their individual physiology. While a small minority of people can get by with only five or six hours of sleep per night, the National Sleep Foundation has found adults generally need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Those who get less than six hours of sleep have a higher rate of illness. Unfortunately, most college students get significantly less sleep then the recommended amount.

The Journal of American College Health recently published a study on how sleep deprivation affects psychological variables related to college students’ cognitive performance. Forty-four college students were asked to complete the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal after either 24 hours of sleep deprivation, or approximately eight hours of sleep. They then completed two questionnaires: one which assessed their perception of effort, concentration, and estimated performance and the other assessing off-task cognition. As expected, sleep-deprived participants performed significantly lower than the non-deprived participants on the cognitive task. Interestingly, the sleep-deprived participants rated their concentration and effort higher than the non-deprived participants.

Also, sleep-deprived participants rated their estimated performance significantly higher than the non-deprived participants did. This finding indicates that college students are not aware of the extent that sleep deprivation negatively affects their ability to successfully complete cognitive tasks.

Studies show that a reduction in total sleep time can dramatically inhibit a person’s ability to consolidate recently formed memories. This is why cramming and all-nighters are largely ineffective. The brain does not have time to properly store the last-minute information.

It should also be noted that stress may not be the only detrimental force to a good night ‘s sleep. In today’s technologically advanced society, environmental issues can also affect sleep patterns, the most obvious one being sleep. Computers emit a blue light, one of the most stimulating lights to the receptors in the back of human eyeballs. The receptors send a message that it is still daylight which then reduces the brain’s production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.

Moreover, sleep deprivation leads to a host of health problems. It can cause depression, weight fluctuation, and sleep paralysis. It also compromises immune system, making people more susceptible to viruses and colds.

Everyone knows it is difficult to get the daily recommended eight hours of sleep with our busy lives. Some people barely average five hours a week. Yet, sleeping is probably one of the most valuable things you do all day. Even though it may seem like a good idea to gulp down a Venti espresso and pull an all-nighter before your next biochemistry test, you are probably better off getting a few hours of sleep and waking up earlier to finish studying.

Shejuti Paul
Staff Writer
paul0217@uab.edu

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