Snooze Doze

Gone are the days when we used to lie down on the sofa or ‘katre’, enjoying the cold, evening breeze, listening to love songs or watching TV, until it lulls us to a deep slumber. Aaah! No worries! We were younger then: a bunch of grade schools who, after doing ‘simple’ school stuffs (finding sums and differences for Math, reading short stories for English and coloring cut-outs for the Arts), go directly to bed and journey dreamland for nine long hours.

Everything changed when we reached our teen years. We started experiencing sleeping later than before. It is because sometime in the late puberty, our body secretes sleep-related hormone melatonin at a different time than it normally does. This alters the ‘circadian rhythms’ (some sort of a biological clock) that guides our sleep-wake cycle. The reasons for this change of sleeping habits are facing our cellphones’ glowing screens texting our friends and textmates (ehem! or crushes in the nearby dorms), in front of computer monitors playing online games or watching telenovelas and late-night documentaries. Bright lights from these things, therefore, stimulate our brain to release melatonin or ‘darkness’ hormone at a later time.

And, for us, college life escalates the problem even more. We have lots of commitments to do both academic and non-academic. We have reports and projects to make; and lectures to study for long quizzes and exams. For graduating students, they have their theses. Add to that, we have organization meetings, varsity trainings, choir practices and peer outings. See, changes in the body’s ‘circadian rhythms’ coincide with the time when we’re busier than ever. Because, the pressure to do well in school is more intense than we were kids, it is harder to get by without studying hard. With term exams, we are forced to stay awake to study. Cramming for exams eat away our sleep hours. As a result, we get deprived of sleep. A couple hours of missed sleep a night may not seem like a big deal, but can create a noticeable sleep deficit over time. And too many nights of forced wakefulness can eventually lead to a case of full blown insomnia and other sleep abnormalities like sleep apnea and loud snoring.

Due to this, we’re having difficulties waking up in the morning. And so, we often become late or even miss our 7 am classes. And now we were wishing we shouldn’t have chosen class schedules that early during the 2nd semester enrollment. Dili na nu-a ta makamu-ok! I’m right, right?

Sleep deprivation also causes us to become irritable, impatient and moody the next day. That’s why sometimes we suddenly burst up to someone who messes up with us. So better give your makulit friends a warning that you didn’t have enough sleep the previous night, so as to exclude you from their annoyance and keep their distance from you.

Another obvious effect of no sleep is that we tend to be sleepy almost the whole day. Studies show that 20% or more admit they fall asleep in their classes. Consequences are reprimands from proffessors and missing the lecture. Some of us VSU students go to the library, not to research on something, but to proceed in the Serials, Circulation or Filipiniana Sections to doze on a desk away from the librarian’s view. An ideal place to nap at huh! Lack of sleep involves the tendencies to make mistakes. (Nursing students to do their practice, beware. You usually stay up late for the lectures and duties), and road accidents.

Do you also know that sleep deprivation can impair our memory and inhibit creativity? Because we now find it difficult to remember and concentrate, it becomes even more difficult to understand and learn.

Sleep is necessary for our nervous systems to work properly. Too little sleep leaves us drowsy and unable to focus the next day. Dr. Stanley Harris, a psychiatrist at the University Park Health Center abroad said, “The quickest way to handicap the brain is to deprive it of sleep. If university students are trying to do a good job and be successful, they ought to give sleeping a first priority if they want to use brains.”

Lack of sleep is also detrimental to our physical health. “Sleep deficit built up over five nights can significantly stress the heart”, said Siobhan Banks, a researcher and lead author in a sleep study in the University of Pennsylvania. Sleep disorders are also linked to hypertension and increased stress hormone levels. “Sleep is when the brain is busy making all the energy it needs to do its work. In addition to our cognitive and emotional experiences in life, the brain also governs other functions in the body, including our immune system,” Harris said. “So if our brain gets exhausted, our immune system declines. It makes us easier to get a cold or flu. That can certainly have an adverse performance on academics.” He also stated that the challenge is setting priorities and keeping to them so that one achieves optimal health, fitness and does one’s best in academic performance. If one just puts academic performance first and neglect his/her needs for sleep, exercise and balanced social life, there is a high risk for not doing anything at all.

Now maybe after reading the preceding paragraphs, you’re now thinking of the ways to prevent such aftermaths happen to you (if you do sleep latea lot!). Luckily, here are some things I searched on the net to help you sleep better.

Set a regular bedtime. Going to bed at the same time each night signals your body that it’s time to sleep. Waking up at the same time everyday can also help establish sleep patterns. So try to stick to your sleep schedule even on weekends. Don’t go to sleep more than an hour later or wake up more than 2 to 3 hours later than you do during the week.

Exercise regularly. Try not to exercise right before bed, as it can rev up you up and make it harder for you to sleep. Many sleep experts believe that exercising five to six hours before bedtime (in the late afternoon) may actually help a person sleep.

Avoid stimulants. Don’t drink too much beverages with caffeine, such as soda and coffee. Nicotine and alcohol are also stimulants, so quit having them in the evening.

Relax your mind. Do not drown yourself thinking of loads of school works to be done. Just relax. Also avoid anything that sets your mind and heart racing. Refrain from watching scary and violent films or even books with active plots.

Keep the lights low. Light signals the brain that it’s time to wake up. Stay away from bright lights when sleeping. Sleep in a room with a quiet and dark atmosphere. Select also one with a right temperature.

Don’t nap too much. Naps of more than 30 minutes during the day may keep you from falling asleep later. A power nap may empower you but don’t overdo. You may end up sleeping the whole day!

Avoid all-nighters. Don’t wait until the night for a big test to study. Cutting back on sleep the night before a test may mean you perform worse than you would if you’d studied less and got more sleep. Refrain also from too much night-outs with friends.

Sleeping is not a waste of time. It is a necessary and vital biological function. It is essential to one’s overall being. As the natural state of bodily rest observed throughout the animal kingdom, this is where it enables the body and mind to REjuvenate, REenergize, and REstore.

So, how was your sleep last night?

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