New semester should equal more sleep

The dreaded moment where it is time to start class after a short break is officially upon us.

The holiday break serves many purposes for the college student, faculty or staff member. It provides an opportunity to get away from campus, visit family, go on vacation and relax.

It also gives us a chance to recharge and relieve the stress of college life. Believe it or not, this makes a difference to one’s mental health.

Having time to catch up on sleep and avoid college stress for a little while is healthier than one might expect. On the flip side, a lack of sleep is detrimental in the long run.

“One of the main issues that most people ages 16-25 don’t understand is that there may not be issues now (with sleep deprivation), but later on there can be,” said Phyllis Greene, the Director of Sleep Studies at Shoals Hospital. “We’re looking at blood pressure problems, diabetes, heart problems, things that a 20-year-old wouldn’t think about.”

Furthermore, 70 percent of college students admit to sleep deprivation, which can result in a low GPA, compromised learning ability and an impaired mood, according to Shelley D. Hershner and Ronald D. Chervin’s study, “Causes and consequences of sleepiness among college students.”

Many times through my college career, I have fallen asleep in the middle of typing an article or blog post. I have overslept and missed class inadvertently on occasion. Even more embarrassingly, I fell asleep in class once unintentionally (sorry Dr. Beth Garfrerick).

Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem. Greene said the answer is simply setting a bedtime and a wake up time every day.

“What we want people to understand is that it doesn’t matter what your age is, you still need at least seven or eight hours of sleep each night,” Greene said. “You need to have the same bedtime and wake up time, limit caffeine and alcohol, limit media (television and cell phones) at least two hours before bed.

“If we do those things, our sleeping will be OK. Otherwise, we experience a lack of concentration, the ability to retain information, general fatigue and things of that nature.”

Since becoming the sports editor for this wonderful newspaper (I can state my personal opinion, right?), I have had nights where I required myself to stay awake and pull “all-nighters” to produce my best effort. The problem occurred when one night became multiple nights.

As we hit the young adult range (18-25), our circadian system (better known as the internal clock) causes students to be less tired at night hours. As one makes a habit of staying up late, it is next to impossible to break it.

As someone who wants to see my peers lead successful lives, I encourage everyone to try trimming down that normal bedtime hour. It may not happen overnight (no pun intended), but can happen gradually.

Thanks to the above study I read over the break and consulting with Greene, it is apparent I need to set a time each night to go to sleep and to wake up. Not to sleep more, but sleep efficiently.

A common theme for college students is prioritizing, which is beat into our heads as freshmen. Adequate sleep schedules should factor in toward the top of the list.

We can thank ourselves in a few years after shaking President Kitts’ hand and receiving that sheet of paper we desire. Furthermore, we can thank ourselves when we avoid major health problems.