The Consequences of Not Sleeping
They can be found anywhere on campus, commonly curled up on a comfy chair somewhere in the Jerry Falwell Library, surrounded by empty Starbucks cups and illuminated by the glow of their laptops.
They can be seen with nodding heads during 8:15 a.m. classes, or pouring a second cup of Seattle’s Best Coffee at the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall. Sometimes, they can even be found passed out in an empty space on the floor, catching up on long lost sleep.
These are the sleepy scholars of Liberty University.
For many students around the nation, college is known as a time of late-night study sessions and the infamous all-nighter. On an indefinite list of priorities and obligations, sleep generally finds itself on the far side. In exchange for a good night’s sleep, caffeine and power naps are relied on by many students to keep their minds up and running, and ready to conquer the next task.
Little do some of these students realize that it is the sleepless struggle to get everything done that kills GPAs.
“That’s one of the first things that I tell med students, when we do orientation, that if you want to do your best in terms of learning, the best advice I can give you is get enough sleep,” Dr. Linda Mintle said.
Mintle is the chair of the division of behavioral health at Liberty’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. Working with med students, she has seen the effect the sleep deprivation has on the student’s memories and grades.
Mintle said that sleep is a vital part of memory consolidation. It is during the sleep cycle that the mind moves short term memory to long term memory.
“It’s actually important to sleep before you learn something as well as after you learn something,” Mintle said.
Mintle says that the worst thing a college student could do before a test is pull an all-night study session. She said that rather than retaining the information, cramming the night before has the opposite effect.
Melissa Pando, a sophomore majoring in health promotions, said that she will often get less sleep when she has to cram the night before.
“It depends, if I have something to study for, three hours,” Pando said. “But if I don’t have anything to study for, I’m just like studying in general, six.”
She said that when she is up late cramming, she has a rough time during the day. She has a hard time getting work done.
“I just think about sleep and how I want to sleep,” Pando said.
Nick Lehning, a junior biochemistry major, said he often studies late into the night. But Lehning does not think it affects him the way it affects Pando.
“I think at this point, I’m kind of adjusted to (tiredness) and it doesn’t affect me as much,” Lehning said.
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), sleep deprivation also can impact someone’s mental health, altering a person’s mood and outlook on life and can even lead to depression. Additionally, Mintle said that sleep deprivation impairs a student’s reaction time.
“How many students do you know say ‘I was driving, ten hours back from break and I was exhausted, and I had an accident’?” Mintle said.
She said that college students tend to suffer from the effects of sleep deprivation because there tends to be a lack in daily routine. And she says that classes tend to act as the only form of a structured routine for many students.
“You just have to set up a routine and start (sleeping) at a regular time,” Mintle said, “And the body is really good with regulation stuff.”
This is what Mintle called sleep hygiene. According to the NSF, sleep hygiene is a series of different practices which can be used to regulate sleep at night and increase daytime alertness.
According to Mintle, technology also plays a key factor in sleep deprivation.
The NSF said that people who use technology an hour before bed tend to have a harder time falling asleep.
“Sleep hygiene people tell you ‘turn off all those lights,” Mintle said. “‘Power down all those screens at least an hour before bed,’”
Procrastinating on school work can also play into sleep deprivation.
Pando said that if she were to get her work done a head of time, she would get better sleep.
“Most of the time the reason that I sleep so late and so little is because I procrastinate,” Pando said. “So, I recommend studying and getting all your work done after class before you do anything fun. And go to sleep earlier.”
According to Mintle, sleep is the ultimate solution to sleep deprivation. If the sleepy scholars in the library were to shut down the laptops and get good-night’s sleep, it will improve the student’s mood and GPA. Mintle said that even a 20 to 30-minute nap will help refresh the minds of these scholars.
“Sleep is body repair,” Mintle said, “It’s like rebooting your computer.”
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