Tuesday, June 15, 2021
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Scheduling around sleep

I remember when I was little and used to want to wake up at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings.

Now, I usually just get into bed at the crack of dawn on Saturdays.

Of course, as we get older, we have different interests (I no longer need to be awake to watch Smurfs), so our schedules are going to be different. We have more work and responsibilities to tend to. So I wonder, if I am going to bed at 6 a.m. and waking up at noon, am I getting enough sleep to function and to carry out these responsibilities?

The search to find the recommended hours of sleep for a college student has been fruitless. I’ve read everything from “adolescents need nine hours of sleep per night,” to “if you feel rested, then you’ve had enough sleep, and that’s it.”

According to sleepnet.com, “adults function optimally if sleep time is initiated regularly at about 10 p.m. and lasts until about 6 a.m.” I realize this is nearly impossible for a busy college student like myself, so I’ve come up with my own system of determining how much sleep I need.

Newscientist.com said the average sleep time in the western world is now 6.5 hours, which seems pretty reasonable based on what students and adults that I’ve talked to have said.

I always try to get about six hours of sleep per night, though I prefer eight.

My schedule rarely ever permits those wonderful new eight-hour nights. But I purposely plan my class schedule to have no classes before 12:30 p.m. I am naturally a night person and rarely go to bed before 3 a.m.

If I go to bed at 3 a.m. and get up at 11 a.m., I will have had eight hours of sleep – perfect.

But it rarely works out that way, with Signal articles and research papers. Sometimes I find myself with a mere four hours of sleep. Now you would think that on these nights I would probably feel my worst, and wouldn’t be able to function during the day. But that doesn’t usually happen.

After one four-hour night, I find it easier to wake up. I spring up to the sound of my alarm, rather than brush it off with the snooze button for an hour. During the day, I don’t have trouble staying awake and I don’t feel more irritable than usual.

Sometimes, however, if I have a streak of those four-hour nights, I will start to feel the effects.

I won’t get tired – I’ll get cranky.

But lack of sleep definitely affects my emotions above all else. Play me a sad song and I’ll be weeping in a matter of seconds.

I doubt my reaction is abnormal. Sleepfoundation.org says sleep deprivation often results in reduced energy, greater difficulty concentrating and a diminished mood (that’s me).

What I do find abnormal, though, is the fact that I usually feel worse when I sleep for more than eight hours in a night. The next day, I’ll usually develop a severe headache and will feel run-down and sluggish.

Of course, Advil aids my aching head, but pill-popping is not a substitute for researching the question that this raises: Does being well-rested have anything to do with the amount of time you sleep, or is it rather the quality of the sleep?

Since the results of such a study will probably take years to produce, I’m not going to waste my time worrying if I sleep enough or not.

It is my principle that sleep will be the sacrifice for papers and homework. Who wants to spend a whole third of their lives asleep anyway?

Six hours, which works out to be a quarter of your life, is just fine for me.


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