Losing Z’s may cost you some A’s

Losing Zs may cost you some As

by Jose Gutierrez

I don’t know how I made it through high school. Actually, I do know, and it involved waking up at 4 a.m. to finish assignments that were postponed thanks to horrible time management. I probably averaged about five hours of sleep per night, which was completely unnecessary in a high school setting. Sleep deprivation was baggage I decided to leave back home when I headed for college.

Unfortunately, not every student has the satisfaction of sleeping well every night. In fact, only 11 percent of American college students get a full night’s rest, according to Harvard Medical School. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, college exposes students to a vast amount of new stimuli that compromises sleeping time. Jobs, extracurricular activities, social gatherings and academic assignments devour huge amounts of time. By all means, it’s understandable that they do, but sleep deprivation becomes a legitimate concern when it begins to inhibit students’ health and performance.

Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease are among the detriments associated with sleep deprivation. It should also be noted that these health concerns are among the leading causes of death in the U.S. While these health complications probably aren’t too much of a concern for the average college student, research suggests that sleep deprivation adversely affects cognitive performance. According to Harvard Medical School, “Inadequate sleep appears to affect the brain’s ability to consolidate both factual information and procedural memories about how to do various physical tasks.” Needless to say, not catching enough zz’s can cost students their A’s.

I loathe the mentality some students associate with inadequate sleep. It’s one thing to hear college students complain about missing sleep. It’s completely understandable that students aren’t always capable of managing their time wisely. However, it’s a completely different thing to hear students boast about how little sleep they get, as if it were a bragging right—it’s not a bragging right and it’s not something to be proud of. Sleep deprivation has become glamorized, and is essentially a part of the college experience, but it shouldn’t be. I fully recovered from inadequate sleep as soon I began attending San Diego State, and it’s not something that I miss at all. Waking up groggy, feeling unenthused throughout the day and wanting to just go home and sleep—that’s how I felt. Beyond these physical adversities, sleep deprivation also took a toll on my mental health.

Everyone knows the angst associated with adolescence, the emotional struggles that accompany teens as they mature. I am no stranger to those feelings. I won’t get into too much detail about what I dealt with, but let’s just say I wasn’t exactly the happiest teenager. As a result, I lost valuable sleep. I self-diagnosed myself with insomnia thinking I was sleep deprived as a result of poor mental health, but I never realized my irregular sleeping habits began long before any of those unhealthy sentiments developed. Sleep deprivation is not just the result of negative emotions; it’s often the cause of such emotions. A 2009 article from the Harvard Mental Health Letter found just that, claiming, “Sleep problems may increase risk for developing particular mental illnesses, as well as result from such disorders.”

Evidently, sleep and mental health form a two-way street, as mental illnesses can result in sleep deprivation and inadequate sleep can lead to developing mental illnesses. The last thing college students need is poor physical and mental health impeding their ability to perform daily activities.

Students sacrifice their sleep in order to wholly experience the college lifestyle. They may partake in a job, join an organization, play sports or party, and every student is entitled to do so. But it’s unfortunate that students burden themselves with sleep deprivation to participate in these activities, in addition to focusing on schoolwork. When this lack of sleep begins to inhibit students’ abilities to fulfill their responsibilities, it becomes problematic.

It’s commendable that students become so involved in their college years, and there’s no shame in being a busy student who finds it difficult to find balance.

Sleep has become a luxury that the broke college student just can’t afford, but it shouldn’t be this way. Adequate sleep is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

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