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Friday, January 15, 2021

How to balance A’s and Z’s

University students aren’t strangers to lack of sleep.

When it comes to balancing a social life with school and having a job, getting enough sleep can become a major challenge.

Dr. Emily Gibson, director of Western’s Student Health Center, said in an email that sleep is a way to restore our physiological needs. This means sleep is one way of giving our bodies what it needs to properly function.

“Due to artificial lights, additional stimulation and too-busy lives, we are getting on average 20 percent less sleep than humans were at the turn of the 20th century,” Gibson said.

“One time I forgot to fill out the back of my test because I stayed up for three days in a row [studying].”

Callie Russel, junior

The average person has a sleep schedule of seven to nine hours a night, but more students will try to get by on six hours or less, Gibson said.

University students are consistently sleep deprived, Gibson said. Students often have to get up early to go to class and stay up late at night trying to finish assignments.

This can become problematic around midterms and finals week. Students on campus can spend hours in the library, and the coffee lines are generally long, since students are trying to up their caffeine intake to help them study.

“Most students use substances that interfere with healthy sleep patterns, such as stimulants like caffeine or amphetamines, depressants like alcohol, opiates and marijuana,” Gibson said.

Illustration by Shannon DeLurio

Tabitha Smith is a teacher’s assistant in the psychology department.

“Sleep deprivation has been known to reduce our immune response,” Smith said. “It increases cortisol levels in your blood, which again, impacts your immune system.”

Cortisol levels are also known as the ‘stress hormone,’ so when you have higher cortisol levels, you have a higher stress level. This can factor into why you are not getting a sufficient amount of sleep.

Sleep deprivation impairs the brain’s activity, causing slower response and leaving the brain exhausted. This impairs the ability to concentrate and learn new things, Gibson said.

Junior Callie Russell said she feels her lack of sleep is affecting her performance in school.

“One time I forgot to fill out the back of my test because I stayed up for three days in a row [studying],” Russell said.

Russell said she doesn’t get enough sleep in the week due to school work and trying to have free time. She said she uses caffeine daily to help cope with the lack of sleep she gets.

Gibson said students should be aware their bodies need time when they are not being exposed to light or computer screens, such as cell phones and laptops. This time is needed for bodies to recover from a day of activity.

Students need to become aware of their sleep schedules to keep living healthy lives. It’s a difficult time to keep up with sleep when school is a top priority and there are deadlines to be met. Without the sufficient amount of sleep, students can suffer, and do suffer, from anxiety, stress, irritability and even symptoms of depression, Gibson said.

It’s important to be aware of what our bodies need. Lack of sleep hurts, and it’s not an easy recovery.

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