Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Sleepless night is more than just a MISTAKE!
Sleep and education never seem to get along. Kindergarten disrupts our nap schedule (one we all wish would return later in life). Middle School and High School students struggle with the ever-present “nod-and-jerk” routine of trying to stay awake in class: they start by looking forward, doing their best to pay attention (or at least look like it), and then slowly their head begins to sag and their eyes close before a jolt of awareness makes them quickly move their head back into place. In a hot Texas classroom on the day after a paper due date or a test, this cycle of can continue for the entirety of a class. For college students, the conflict is apparent by the students sitting in the classroom dressed in their pajamas with a large cup (or multiple cups) of coffee and a glazed look on their faces. At any age, it is difficult to balance a healthy, good night’s sleep with the demands of getting a good education.
In theory, the solution is easy: always try to get as close to 8 hours of sleep as you can. In practice though—with the ever-increasing demands placed on students of every level to excel in classes, to stretch themselves with extra-curricular activities, and to maintain a healthy social life—students are more likely to feel forced to sacrifice sleep for the sake of their education. This temptation must be avoided at all cost. So when it seems that there is a long night of work ahead of you, whether in the form of readings, busy work, papers, or a big, looming test the next day, here is something to remember which will hopefully help you make that decision: all-nighters, while promising in theory, significantly drain your energy and focus for the next day.
We’ve all had the idea that perhaps simply giving up sleep for a night will allow us 8 full hours to write or study. On paper it seems like a good opportunity to double the amount of time you have available to work, but the reality of every all-nighter I’ve ever taken (and I took more than enough in college) is completely different. Most start out promising, with a large mug of coffee or tea and a good study soundtrack, but around 2 or 3am, that motivation starts to disappear and gets replaced by the desire to give up. Sometimes that takes the form of hoping to wake up early and finish (a strategy which has worked well for many of my friends, but I personally find I always end up oversleeping). Most of the time, this desire to give up is quickly followed by the realization that it would be impossible to do so. Without having gotten enough studying or writing done earlier in the day, there is simply too much work which has to be done.
Nine times out of ten, all-nighters end earlier than expected. Everyone reaches a point where they’ve consumed twice as many mugs of coffee as the number of hours they know they’ll sleep that night and still can’t manage to keep themselves focused, motivated, or even awake. The next day, more often than not, is a struggle to restore your body and mind to the level of focus you felt at the beginning of working that first night. Not sleeping one night will lead to decreased productivity the next day. Fighting off a nap all day is not the struggle you want to be facing if you’ve just spent all night studying for an important test or if you have classes to focus on after turning in your paper.
While not every all-nighter can be avoided due to the immense workloads placed on today’s students, the best defense to feeling fatigued is to plan ahead to do as much work during reasonable work hours as you can. Know your limit, the time in the morning where you’re likely to start getting distracted, and plan out a schedule for studying that does not rely heavily on working after that time. As long as pushing yourself to work after that time does not become a regular occurrence (or does not happen the night before a major test or busy day), your body will thank you for not sacrificing sleep for a few more hours of less-productive work time. Remember that the idea of a sleepless night full of motivation and productivity is more than just a mistake, it is a recipe for an exhausting following day that will throw your work and sleep schedule completely off. When possible, getting close to a full night’s sleep will help you maintain both a healthier state of mind and help your productivity in the future.