Does Sleep Matter?
Tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. you have a final exam. You are stressing, hoping that everything you learned did not go in one ear and out the other.
You are studying your notes, time is passing by, and your eyelids are getting heavy. You take a sip of your coffee and look at the clock and see that it is already 4 a.m. Instead of sleeping you take one more sip of your coffee, and brace yourself for an all-nighter.
For college students, sleeping has become a lost art. At Fairfield University in particular, 30 of 47 students surveyed said that they get seven hours or less of sleep on an average school night.
According to Dr. Stephen Kelly, who is an assistant clinical professor of family medicine at New York Medical College, the average college student should be getting seven to eight hours of shut eye per night.
Only 13 of 47 Fairfield University students are actually getting more than seven hours of sleep on the nights before a big paper or midterm is due, while 8 students are getting five hours of sleep or less.
“It’s hard to retain certain material, my motor functions are also affected, I work much slower,” said John Moore ’12 in reference to not getting enough sleep.
According to USA Today in 2007, a study at St. Lawrence University showed sleep deprivation causes delayed reaction, which leads to a greater tendency to make mistakes. The study also showed that 2/3rds of the 111 students in the study pulled all-nighters. The students that pulled all-nighters have a slightly lower G.P.A than the students who never pulled an all-nighter.
“You are just tired and not focused on the material you are being tested on,” Kelley Brady ’12 said in reference to pulling an all-nighter. “All you are thinking about is when are you going to go to bed,” she added.
Of the 47 students surveyed, 20 have pulled all nighters. Some of the main causes for the all-nighters cited were lack of time, procrastination, and the simple fact of wanting to be prepared for the upcoming exam. Some students just feel more confident going into an exam knowing they stayed up all night preparing.
“It definitely makes you feel more tired,” Sarah Hunt ’12 said. “I still feel like cramming and learning that information is more important than just getting a few hours of sleep,” she added.
Hunt maintains a high G.P.A, and along with 19 percent of her fellow students, believes that all-nighters are necessary.
The experts disagree.
Even if all-nighters help certain students do better on an exam, these students can be risking their mental health. Dr. Kelly stated that sleeping disorders can lead to psychiatric disorders such as depression.
However, lack of sleep does not only lead to mental disorders; there are physical disorders that can come into play when one does not get enough sleep.
According to a 2006 article from Preventdisease.com, in 1999 Eve Van Cauter, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago did an experiment that showed in just six days of sleeping for only four hours, 11 healthy young male volunteers ended up going into a pre-diabetic state. Even though the conditions in which these men were put are rare, it showed that not sleeping can affect your physical wellbeing along with your mental wellbeing.
For a student who usually never pulls an all-nighter, deciding to stay up all night can result in disaster.
“I felt too sick when the test came around for me to enjoy any of it, no sleep made it more of a trial than an academic challenge,” said Thomas Saporito ’12.
Saporito is not alone. Of the 47 students surveyed, 29 believed that their academic performance is affected by their lack of sleep.
According to Dr. Kelly, when you do not get enough sleep your heart rate speeds up and you do not focus as well as you would if you had gotten a good night’s sleep.
Some students resort to the prescription drug Adderoll in order to effectively perform academically. According to the Drugs.com, Adderoll is a stimulant that is normally prescribed to people with Attention Deficit Disorder. It is also fairly easy to get on a college campus.
“It eliminates the fatigue. Instead of sleeping for 10 hours, I will be focused while I am doing work for 10 hours,” said a Fairfield University student who wishes to remain anonymous. The student also added, “I will not pull an all nighter if I don’t have Adderoll.” Although there are no official numbers on how many students in America use Adderoll, a 2005 survey in the Washington D.C. area indicated 25 percent of students have used the drug at least once.
Of the 47 students surveyed, only 22 students believed that they could get more sleep with the work load that they are given, opening up the question; are teachers giving students an unreasonable amount of work?
“I think that it always seems that the tests fall all at the same time in the same week, so it all piles on,” Hunt said.
Sophomore Steve Flanagan does not believe it is his teacher’s fault, but feels he brings the workload on himself, “Normally I wait till the last minute and have to cram.”
According to Dr. Kelly our bodies do not stop developing until our early 20s and it is usually the amount of sleep you need in order to feel rested, to be able to concentrate, and to promote healthy growth.
Will we help our bodies help us?
“I know that even if I did not get a lot of school work I would still be up playing video games or finding a way to distract myself into the late hours of the night,” said Dakota Fontanello ’12.