Sleep — everyone wants it, but it never feels like we’re getting enough.
Getting a good night’s sleep helps people stay physically and mentally fit. But with loaded schedules that demand our attention, students often see sleep as an inconvenience instead of a necessity.
“I pull an all-nighter sometimes, usually when I’ve got a major essay to hand in the next morning,” says first-year media, information and technoculture student Lina Ali. “If I’m lucky I get to sleep for two or three hours.”
While this may be a common habit among students, it’s also dangerous one.
A recent study conducted by Daniel Cohen, neurologist and sleep medicine specialist with Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, found staying awake continually for 24 hours impairs performance to a level comparable to a blood-alcohol content beyond the legal limit to drive.
When a person who is already seriously sleep-deprived pulls an all-nighter, the deterioration is increased 10-fold.
For those attempting to restore their out-of-wack sleep patterns with an extra-long night of sleep, the more sleep-deprived you are, the more “sleeps” it will take to recover. Scientists are still working on determining how long it takes to stabilize a poor sleep pattern, but they are sure it takes more than a weekend.
Stan Leung, professor of physiology, pharmacology, and clinical neurological sciences at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, specializes in sleep and other brain activities. He compares a student’s sleep pattern to someone recovering from jet lag which requires several days for their body’s natural rhythms to return to normal.
Leung says those who regularly ignore their body’s natural rhythm will find themselves struggling to stay awake all day.
Alayna Hryclik, a third-year visual arts student, says that she still feels tired after she sleeps in.
“Sometimes my sleeping in is caused by staying up really late, but when I’ve been staying up sort of late and still sleep in — which is normally the case when I sleep in — I am definitely more lethargic, and don’t feel like starting anything that day,” she says.
But this fatigue can also be attributed to a student’s daily activities.
“Performance during sleep deprivation may also depend on your arousal level during the task. Doctors during emergency — and we under similar conditions — can kick our brains into action,” Leung says.
While sleep deprivation bears a lot of blame for poor memory function, the study shows an afternoon nap can restore memory — or at least renew it.
This year the American Association for the Advancement of Science conducted a symposium concluding sleep deprivation was dangerous to one’s health, but that taking a nap could sufficiently refresh the memory.
“Caffeine and sugar might give a little boost but it would be short-lived and not recommended for long term use. The best thing for a person who needs sleep is just sleep,” Elizabeth Bright-See, professor of nutrition at Brescia University College says.