MACKENZIE HURLBERT — Staff Writer
If I randomly told you “seven to nine hours,” what would you think it applies to? Time spent on homework a week? Nope. Time spent in the classroom each day? Wrong again. How about the hours of sleep a night recommended for people our age? Bingo! Now, who actually gets that at college?!
With stacks of essays, tons of homework, late-night cramming for exams and noisy dorm life, the likelihood of achieving this recommended sleep requirement becomes less and less.
In our now sleepless nightlife, our computer screens are our night-lights, coffee is a supplement and energy drinks are a necessity. This lack of sleep and avoidance of the doctor’s orders isn’t healthy, but it’s reality.
My transition to college life was a wake-up call, figuratively and literally. I was given 8:10 a.m. classes four out of the five days of the week. My homework load jumped from two hours a night in high school to around five hours each day in this new life. I joined two clubs—one, club volleyball, which meets occasionally from 9–11 p.m. Just like that I realized I had little to no free time throughout the work week and hardly enough time to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Of course it is normal; once again, my college experience fulfills the stereotype. But while coughs, sneezes and sniffling noses terrorize the school community, it’s important for students to get their recommended sleep requirement in order to stay healthy and to help their bodies recuperate.
There are easy ways to combat the cold. Complete your homework and get the sleep you need; it just takes a little scheduling. The normal sleep cycle is about 90 minutes, which means throughout this time we start in a light sleep, gradually fall into a deeper sleep and then return to a light sleep. If you have a break in your work day, try to take a 90-minute nap. Shorter, hour-long naps will wake you up in the middle of the sleep cycle, when you are in your deepest sleep, so it will be harder for you to wake up and you won’t feel as rested. If you decide to take a nap, increments of 90 minutes are best because you will be completing full sleep cycles, therefore you will feel more rested. Also, don’t eat right before you go to sleep. If you eat, your body will be working to break down the foods and you will have a harder time falling asleep.
Sometimes the stuff we eat and drink to stay awake isn’t that healthy either. I talked to Dr. Nicholas Edgington, Associate Professor of Biology here at Southern, about energy drinks and how to tell if they are helping or hurting you.
“They have a lot of sugar, which is used as an energy source,” said Edgington. “But if it says zero calories, then they are absolutely not providing any calories.”
I learned that caffeine, a crutch for many college students, doesn’t actually give you energy. Instead, it is a stimulant that affects your brain chemistry and metabolic rate. It makes you feel like you have more energy. Caffeine is also an acid, so it can be harmful if one consumes too much. Caffeine can cause gastric ulcers and irregular heartbeats if you overuse it. Also, energy drinks may not be telling you the truth when it comes to their ingredients.
“Energy drinks are not regulated by the FDA so they can make claims and lie about what’s in them,” said Edgington.
Freshman Kelsey Deegan also shares a common complaint of college students.
“I try to get more sleep but it just doesn’t work. I try to go to bed early but I’ll think about everything I’ve got to do the next day and I stay up for hours,” said Deegan. “Because I’m a commuter, I work to pay for gas. It’s pretty tough and I have a set schedule when I do my homework.”