Sleep deprivation has become such a common issue for college students that we sometimes skew it as an accomplishment or a laughing matter. We forgo recognizing the danger in not sleeping and instead brag about how little sleep we got or much caffeine we’ve had already by noontime.
“I only got six hours of sleep last night” is often countered with “I only got five” and so on. The hours tick down as the statement circles the friend group, until the least well-rested person is given the gold trophy in deprivation. But nobody wants to be that exhausted, so why do we make a point of competing?
What’s worse than the bragging circle of no sleep is the rock-solid expectation of little sleep for college students. There is a sort of unspoken “so what” that comes with expressions of being tired. Attending college is a great obstacle with many challenges — maintaining your sleep health being one of them. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that sleep is necessary and suffering is not. We have successfully normalized the tired drone of students. There is no sense in expecting college students to be exhausted when measures could be taken to avoid the constant burnout and crippling sleep health in today’s youth. Why are we largely complacent in this issue?
One reason we expect exhaustion is the genius invention of cramming — a practice which many of us engage in, but has been proven as ineffective. Staying up all night to memorize material seems like a noble sacrifice at getting the best grade possible. However, in destroying all chance of getting a good night’s sleep, memory will suffer. That material agonized over from midnight to 5a.m. won’t stick and we will be much more susceptible to easy mistakes that would not have happened, had we slept the night before.
A great solution for this problem seems to exist — sitting patiently in the dining halls, the Bear’s Den and every coffee shop in a ten-mile radius of campus. Caffeine can work wonders — giving a boost when natural cortisol levels start to dip, offering that lift we need to get through an evening class or work shift. Though, many of us don’t use it properly.
Caffeine is best ingested in small amounts and never in excess. Relying on caffeine daily will reduce its effectiveness, especially if consumed in large amounts. Using coffee and tea as a crutch will only last a short time before its benefits bottom out. Addiction to caffeine is a real problem that can affect anyone who downs coffee or soda as their primary liquid. The amount of sugar frequently stirred into the typical caffeine dose is also no help for energy levels.
The only real fix is sleep. Prioritizing your sleep health is something we should all strive for. There is nothing wrong with going to bed when needed — even if there’s a funny show on TV, a party down the road or an assignment that needs finishing. Watch the show later. Hit up the next party. Do that homework in the morning. We should never feel guilty about putting our sleep health first, despite outside forces that seem much more important in the moment.
Without sleep, all other areas of life will lag behind. Stress levels will rocket and everything from mental health to GPA will plummet. It may not hit you now, but it will eventually. Be proactive about taking care of yourself. The sooner we stop sacrificing sleep, the better.