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Lack of sleep a cause of low grades

by Jaclynn Fasken, business manager

Sleep is as basic a need as food. No college student would go two days without a meal. Yet many frequently pull all-nighters. These students suffer from sleep deprivation, and it affects their physical and mental state reducing their ability to study as much as, or more than, not eating.

Most sleep loss affecting college students is because of poor sleeping habits or stress, or both, according to Susan Sherbune, technical supervisor of sleep disorders at Enloe Hospital in California. Sleep is not a top priority for students, whose traditional twin priorities of partying and academics combine to create poor sleeping habits. Add everyday college stress to habitual late hours, and sleep deprivation turns into an epidemic at universities.

Jane (last name withheld by request), a junior at HPU, describes a pattern typical of many college students: “I stay up and study one night, thinking that if I just get though the day I can go to sleep early. Then, when that night comes, I end up staying up again for some other project. Then when the weekend comes, I don’t want to stay in. I want to go out. I usually stay up late.” This results in sleep deprivation and what is known as “sleep debt.” And it can adversely affect an individual’s performance.

As indicated by Sherburne, during sleep the brain re- energizes itself, storing away information from the day before and getting the body ready for the next day. She suggests eight to nine hours of sleep a night.

Sleep debt occurs when hours of sleep are lost each night and build up to one big sleep debt. Making up this sleep debt over the weekend does not necessarily help because the debt is far too big. Many of us still feel tired on Monday morning after a weekend of rest. A sure sign of sleep deprivation is pressing snooze on the alarm clock. When it is getting enough sleep, the body needs, it wakes up without the help of an alarm clock.

Fred Danner, professor and chair of educational and counseling psychology at the University of Kentucky College of Education explains that “Students who roughly get six hours of sleep a night get lower grades and are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.” Other effects of lack of sleep are shortened temper, lower motivation, and slower reflexes, Danner said.

Every college student has experienced (almost?) falling asleep in class. Without enough sleep, the brain can’t concentrate on learning because it is concentrating on sleeping, as soon as possible.
Studying is best done when fully awake with no need for stimulants such as caffeine or drugs. Yet many college students cram late at night. If the studying were done in the afternoon, much more information would be remembered, according to Sherburne.

One solution to this problem is time management and making sleep the same high priority as eating and drinking. In the long run, a balance of sleep, study, and play is needed. However, it is important to schedule adequate sleep especially during times when your brain needs to be working at top efficiency such as exam weeks. Cut back on extra curricular activities or even study time, but get a good night’s sleep every night.

Students who are having trouble falling asleep should cut caffeine intake at night and not use the bed as a place to study or watch TV. Reserving the bed for sleep lets the body know that when in bed it is supposed to fall asleep.

Some natural products, such as chamomile tea enhance sleepiness. There is anecdotal evidence that a room spray called Zzz Therapy, made by The Healing Garden, which uses chamomile and vanilla, improves sleep. And at least one HPU faculty member has had success with yoga techniques. There are also numerous pharmaceuticals, but before using these, one should consult a physician.

Don’t let lack of sleep affect your moods and academic performance. Make time to sleep. Your body and mind will thank you and your grades will show it.





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