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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Nope … sleep is pretty great

Published: February 4, 2011
Section: Opinions

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Don’t swim for an hour after eating. Don’t eat yellow snow. We have all heard this advice growing up and often we shrug it off. Now that we are in college, we skip breakfast often, we swim whenever the hell we want to, and we still don’t eat yellow snow, hopefully. One piece of advice that I don’t remember getting as a child, but which is far more important, is: Get plenty of sleep.

Sleep is incredibly important to your mind and body. As college students, we often forego getting a good night’s sleep in favor of homework, socializing and surfing the Web. Many of us have turned functioning while sleep-deprived into an art form. This does not make it OK. We need sleep and, just because we can still function without it, does not mean we should.

While you can still write papers and do your math homework on a few hours of sleep per night, it will not be your best work. In order to achieve the grades required to make your parents beam with pride, you need to be able to string sentences together, something that is nearly impossible when you are exhausted. If you are staying up late in order to finish a paper, it is better to drop it and go to sleep. By around 4 a.m., you will stop thinking coherently and your sentences will become a lamentable mess. Also, at this point, you will be so tired that you won’t be able to recognize the fact that your sentences have become a lamentable mess. Plan ahead and do your work ahead of time so that you won’t have to choose between a C paper and a good night’s sleep. Instead, write your paper during the day and get an A and a good night’s sleep.

Also, when you are overly tired in class, your professors do notice. Obviously, there are those professors who are completely oblivious and you could walk into their class in your birthday suit and they wouldn’t notice, although the other students might, so I wouldn’t recommend it. Most professors, however, notice your unsuccessfully stifled yawns, your constantly flapping eyelids and your general lack of responsiveness. They see it and remember it.

This does not even touch on the effects that foregoing sleep has on your body. You do not sleep just to give your brain a rest; your body needs this downtime too. Without an adequate amount of sleep, your joints and muscles can become sore and you are more likely to pull muscles while climbing the Rabb steps and to get Charlie horses while sitting in the class you are falling asleep in (which your professor totally notices). Additionally, not sleeping can cause headaches, which will impinge on your social life far more than going to bed at a decent time.

If these are not things that matter to you, perhaps it will matter to you that without your required amount of sleep, you look like crap. You will get those bags under your eyes that makeup can never truly cover up. Your facial muscles will be too tired to make your mouth smile and you will look like a dour, droopy-faced person. And, if you are too tired, your hands can shake in the morning, making it difficult to apply the aforementioned makeup necessary to make you look halfway decent.

Now, I know what you are thinking: My hands will stop shaking after I’ve had my intravenous dose of coffee. This, however, is only a temporary solution. After using caffeine to mask the symptoms of sleep deprivation for a long time, it will stop working. You will require larger and larger doses of coffee to get the desired effect. Too much caffeine is bad for your body as well but, since this column is not about the dangers of overdosing on caffeine, I won’t go there. Just remember: No chemical can make up for the biological function known as sleep.

As I stated at the beginning of this column, I am aware that we are in college and that we often do not get a full night’s sleep. I am not asking you to get eight hours of sleep per night; I am, however, asking you to try to get at least five hours per night and, if you find this impossible, set aside a night or two per week when you know that you will be able to get a good night’s sleep. If you do this, your schoolwork will improve, your health will improve and your appearance will improve. Don’t handicap yourself by thinking you are invincible.