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Davis, California

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Column: Sleepytime

When I tell people that I don’t like coffee or tea, they look at me strangely. Next, I tell them that I don’t drink caffeine. They usually look at me like I am from some cult tribe of hippies living on an uncharted island.

Although chocolate and I have been in a serious relationship since I experienced love at first bite, I steer clear of all sodas, energy drinks, coffee and tea. Stereotypes these days tell us that being a college student means having to pull all-nighters and stay awake during monotonous lectures, so it’s only natural that caffeine has replaced diamonds and dogs as woman and man’s best friend. Some students are also starting to take caffeine pills, use herbal supplements and abuse prescription ‘smart drugs’ such as Adderall and Ritalin in order to cram 10 weeks of knowledge into their brains before a final.

What ever happened to your pillow and a nice cozy blanket being your best friend? When did sleep become the enemy?

With having to study for midterms that pop up every week, needing to write that 10-page research paper you procrastinated on or the other multiple excuses you might have, I get it. There are never enough hours in the day. The quarter system is a relay race, where sleep is the prize you get during winter, spring and summer break. You’ll just catch up later on the sleep you miss.

But sleep might be more important than you think.

We all know the groggy blur that not enough sleep can cause. Sleep deprivation lowers productivity, negatively impacts our memory and can slow down other mental reasoning skills. Lack of sleep can also mean harm to your health and safety.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleeping for only a short amount of time can be correlated to an increase in the possibility of having a motor vehicle accident and a decreased attention span and reaction time. Well, duh.

Not sleeping long enough can also lead to weight gain, because your appetite grows when you don’t get enough sleep. The risk of developing diabetes, heart problems and psychiatric conditions like depression also goes up when your sleep count is down. Your body needs sleep in order to be happy and healthy.

Because we might be spending too much time nourishing our minds and souls by going to early-morning lectures, Facebook stalking into the wee hours of the morning or partying it up with our friends, our bodies suffer. If our bodies aren’t in good shape, our minds will suffer. If our minds suffer, our souls will be useless. It’s like one of those positive feedback loops from biology class. (Or maybe not. I think research has yet to prove that greenhouse gases have souls.)

While there is no magic number of hours that will guarantee you wake up looking like a princess or be refreshed enough to master all intellectual theories that come your way, the general average recommendations say adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

I doubt that the large majority of students on campus get nine hours of sleep a night. I usually get around seven to eight hours. I know one student who gets five to six. Needless to say, that student loves coffee.

Sleep deprivation isn’t just a problem for students – it has also been a problem for American air traffic controllers. Lately, there have been a handful of incidents reported where controllers were caught dozing off while on duty.

Sleep experts have proposed that giving these workers nap breaks would solve the issue. I wholeheartedly agree. Nap-time, along with crayons and juice boxes, is something that we shouldn’t give up once childhood is over.

Other countries like Germany and Japan allot a sleep break as part of a shift for air traffic controllers. Our American work ethic and capitalism doesn’t really follow with that, though. Transportation secretary Ray LaHood responded to the idea of a nap break at the control tower with: “On my watch, controllers will not be paid to take naps.”

Although you might not get paid for naps, they are still glorious. If you find yourself sleepy and irritable, nap for 10 to 20 minutes, ideally between 1 and 3 p.m. After 20 minutes, you risk falling into a deep sleep and feeling groggy when you wake up. Sleeping between 1 to 3 p.m. will probably least affect your ability to fall asleep later that night.

If you don’t get enough sleep, you should reconsider your rest habits. I’m sure your stuffed animals miss you terribly.

Sleep tight, and don’t let the bedbugs bite!

CORRIE JACOBS loves sleep for multiple reasons. Main reason: having epic dreams. Share your amazing dreams with her at cljacobs@ucdavis.edu.


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