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   Date: 12/16/09 Bookmark and Share

Sleep? Who Has Time for Sleep During Finals Week?

Now that classes are over for the semester and finals have begun, sleep, for many Smithies, is an all-too-scarce commodity. Julie Colatrella, the College Relations writing intern, tells why sleep should be prioritized higher on Smithies' lists.

Smithies: Your Pillow Misses You

By Julie Colatrella ’12

It’s no surprise: Smithies don’t get enough sleep. And now, with term papers and finals insinuating their way into daily planners, it’s becoming difficult to change that.

Lack of sleep is the number one health issue for students. It affects everything from energy and metabolism to performance on tests and athletic performance. In the last 12 months, one in five Smith students reported that lack of sleep negatively affected her academic performance.

“Smithies get only slightly less sleep than the average college student,” says Emily Nagoski, wellness education director, “but because they have higher standards, the effect on academic performance is disproportionately worse.”

The average person needs seven to nine hours of sleep, with at least four hours occurring consecutively, reminds Nagoski. She suggests avoiding sugar, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol for four hours before bed time. Additionally, exercising in the morning can help jumpstart the body’s bio-clock so that you feel more tired at night.

However, it can be difficult to adhere to these rules with work piling up at the end of the semester.

“Strategic napping can help,” suggests Nagoski. “A sleep cycle is an hour and a half long, so you can either take a ‘baby nap’ for 30 minutes or go all the way and nap for one and a half to three hours.” And despite myths to the contrary, Nagoski suggests that bingeing on sleep on the weekends can be beneficial for the run-down Smithie.

Pulling all-nighters to accomplish work, however, is never the answer.

“They’re the worst thing you can do,” explains Nagoski. “Between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m., the work you produce is extremely low quality. If you’re willing to hand in a low-quality paper, you might as well get it done quickly and get your rest. Without that sleep, integration of knowledge can’t happen.”

According to Nagoski, being awake for 19 hours or more equals the impairment of a person with a .1% blood-alcohol content, “and you wouldn’t go to an exam drunk,” she adds.

Despite the obvious negative effects of sleep deprivation, students continue to stay up late to finish their work.

“I wish I could sleep all the time but I just have so many papers,” says Laura Clampitt ’13, “but when I don’t sleep I can’t get my work done, so it’s really a bad cycle.”

Denise Robb ’13. agrees. “I’m stressed out from losing sleep and I’m not functioning regularly.”

Though polls show that first-year students get less sleep than older students, they’re not the only ones feeling the pain. “Getting less sleep during finals week is making me frustrated with everything and I have this doomed feeling with all my work,” comments Grace Anderson ’12. “When I’m not sleeping, it feels a little more impossible.”

Finals can be overwhelming, but practicing bad sleeping habits and pulling all-nighters to finish work doesn’t help.

“I’ve heard the phrase, ‘Done is better than good,’” says Nagoski, “But if you’re going to have that attitude, get it done and go to sleep! Why stay up all night to turn in something crappy?”

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