The slumber blunder

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Graphic by Jessica Wood
Graphic by Jessica Wood

Good grades, social life or getting enough sleep; choose two.

This banality structured as an inconsistent triad unfortunately resonates with too many college and university students, but maybe instead of choosing two components, the crux should be on getting adequate sleep.

Recent research conducted by the National Sleep Foundation revealed a guideline to the new sleep recommendations for different age intervals. As most students fall into the “young adult” category of 18-25, the recommended sleep allotment is seven to nine hours a night.

Seem feasible? Well, hundreds of studies exist to remind those that aren’t meeting the quota of the numerous potential adverse effects. It’s not uncommon to associate high blood pressure, depression, shortened-attention spans, weight gain and erratic behaviour to sleep deprivation.

I used to think that my poor diet of gluten-rich foods, red meat and Durian fruit is what caused those symptoms, but now I have some perspective.

More often than not, I find myself using my phone as a sedative for sleep. Watching Netflix in bed until exhaustion is conventional for some, just like not closing the door to the washroom when you’re home alone on a Saturday night.

However falling asleep to Netflix is much more reprehensible to your quality of sleep than the latter. Electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops emit blue light which is known to disrupt rapid eye movement sleep, more commonly known as deep sleep. Cycles of REM fluctuate between 90-120 minutes but exposure to blue-light emissions before sleeping yields less time in REM sleep, which means that us late-night device users are losing out on quality sleep.

Even using your phone an hour before going to sleep has residual effects. These shortened REM cycles increase the chances of experiencing sleep inertia which causes grogginess and attention-impairment that follow a curt awakening and can last an entire day.

So the next time you submit your paper late, just tell your professor that you didn’t want to deal with sleep inertia, they’ll understand.

Or instead, you could download new software that’s available for laptops and smartphones to reduce blue light colours on your device in accordance to the position of the sun. Once the sun dips below the horizon, f.lux for laptops and Twilight for smartphones activate to help you get a better sleep.

Neither program is an excuse to use your devices all night, but they’re a great way to squeeze in one more episode of Shattered – a reality TV show about people voluntarily depriving themselves of sleep.

Unsurprisingly, scientists at Aachen University in Germany affirm that only 10 per cent of people are actually considered to be “early risers.” This means the rest of us are experiencing sleep inertia that can last the entire day — a sort of chronic jet lag.

It was not reported what percentage of these “early risers” use f.lux or Twilight to achieve their incredible feat but I imagine the majority do, on the grounds that nobody actually has the time to regulate a healthy sleep routine, right?

Compared to early risers, “night owls” reportedly have less white matter in the brain, which is alarming to people that understand the function of white matter. In his article “Night Owls and Early Risers Have Different Brain Structures,” Dr. Michael Breus shared that white matter in the brain “facilitates communication among nerve cells” and weakened white matter “has been linked to depression and to disruptions of normal cognitive function.”

Although night owls are more prone to depression, research has linked being a night owl to enhanced analytical abilities and higher productivity levels. Admittedly, it’s odd to imagine night owls being more productive than their counterparts, but as Don Roff puts it: “Nothing says work efficiency like panic mode.”

It’s unfortunate how much contradicting research exists in the study of sleep hygiene because having to make a self-governing decision on how much to sleep can be daunting, like most other responsibilities.

One day, we might have an app that bullies us to sleep so we’ll never be sleep deprived again, but until then, start sleeping through your morning classes and don’t use your phone unless it’s an emergency.


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