The Collegian
Friday, April 19, 2024

Here's the pitfall, you're a sleepyhead

Three nights ago, I stayed up until 3 a.m. and got up at 8 a.m. Two nights ago, I followed that five hours up with an all-nighter and did not sleep at all. Then yesterday evening, at around 5 p.m., I crashed out of my own accord and slept until 9 a.m. this morning.

Now I am completely screwed. I will probably have to start the cycle again tonight in order to catch up on all of the things I didn't do (but was supposed to do) last night.

Sound familiar? An outside viewer may read this and think "Wow, that's crazy!" but I don't think any of you will. In fact, I think many of you are likely to read this and think "So?" It's that normal. Richmond students don't sleep nearly as much as our bodies need us to.

It's not just us, either. It's a well-known fact that many college students suffer from sleep deprivation around the country, but we need to recognize how unfortunate this really is.

One only has to look on or even "WebMD" to read that sleep deprivation destroys cognitive function, meaning that someone who has not slept a sufficiently long amount of time will notice that his or her athletic and academic performance is much worse.

Furthermore, sleep is something that lacks significant research. Doctors and researchers aren't actually sure what it is that sleep or a lack thereof does to a human body, only that it's essential to us. This has been seen consistently in empirical evidence (sleepy people are like the living dead) and the fact that many humans die after staying awake for 72 hours straight.

Yes -- they actually die. Sleep deprivation has been linked to heart disease and breathing problems, which may or may not be related to sleep fatalities but which, in either case, seem to be pretty serious problems.

Why are we doing this to ourselves? We want to sleep. Go into 8:15 at Boatwright, late-night Gottwald rooms, any floor of the library, or really anywhere on the Richmond campus on a weeknight between the hours of 9 p.m. - 9 a.m. (because yes, there will be people in all of these places at all hours in between) and all you will hear over and over again is how tired everyone is, how much they miss their beds, what they would give for some sleep and how much they still have to do.

It's sad, if you think about it, how much everyone is pushing themselves -- every night is like a campus-wide death march, and every morning when the sun rises on campus it is clear who has survived.

Survival of sleep deprivation is nothing, though, when you consider the everyday consequences; consequences which we should be somewhat familiar with at this point. We are unpleasant to each other, we are unpleasant to our teachers in class and we are unpleasant to the person taking our order at 8:15.

We can't focus in class, we are slow learners and the simplest tasks become frustratingly complicated. Worst of all, we slow down our ability to read, write and comprehend. We are so determined to keep chugging along, though, that this just means homework takes longer and every night adds a little bit more sleep debt to everyone's mental account.

I'll try to answer my own question, and I'll start with the answer that requires me to play the devil's advocate. Maybe we are losing so much sleep because we are going out too hard (staying out too late and drinking too much) on weekends -- maybe if we used weekends to do work and catch up on sleep, we would be in much better shape on both the homework and sleep scale throughout the weekdays.

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This is a valid point and it deserves some consideration. The one problem I see is that the students who stay in on weekends have the same homework woes. While this does mean that the students who do go out hard on weekends are in worse shape, it does not mean that staying in on weekends would solve the issue entirely.

Maybe we are overcommitted. I think it's likely we are. My personal problem with this possibility is that I'm not trying to give anything up -- I like the things I participate in, and time-wise, I can fit them into my schedule.

I also don't feel as though I'm overworking myself on the extracurricular front; I only do three to four things outside of schoolwork, after having to sacrifice anything I was not die-hard enthusiastic about for the love of sleep.

Most of us actually complain that we don't do enough outside of schoolwork -- that if we were to get more involved on and off campus, we would "never have enough time to do work." (A popular phrase, as we know).

This brings me to the third possibility -- we get too much homework. This has my vote. There isn't enough time in a day to complete everything we are given, let alone to do it well or enjoy it.

We either have to cut corners or cut sleep when it comes down to assignment completion, and sometimes it's both. When we take classes that we genuinely find interesting, we can't take as much time to internalize information as we would like when we are expected to take it in and churn it out like a machine.

I strongly believe that teachers here are not at fault, but it's difficult to say who is -- bureaucracies make this kind of detective work difficult.

So how do we fix the problem? I don't know. ... I'm way too tired to think about it.

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