Are you getting enough rest?

Nicholas Malahosky, Reporter

It’s 4 a.m. and you’re getting closer and closer to giving up on any hopes of sleep and simply pulling an all-nighter to study for that test tomorrow.  If you’re a college student, you’ve almost certainly experienced this kind of night before.  Trying to balance school, a social life and a million other things means that sleeping is often low on a student’s list of priorities.
Unfortunately, not getting enough sleep is more incapacitating than most people think.  According to a 2007 study by the Sleep Research Unit at the University of Turku in Finland, even small amounts of sleep deprivation can negatively affect one’s cognitive performance.


Your brain is not inactive while you sleep; it’s doing important work like forming memories and cleaning out toxins with cerebrospinal fluid. Without preforming these vital tasks, your brain is left overworked and tired for the next day. Sacrificing sleep for studying may actually leave you far worse off for that early morning test.


The National Sleep Foundation recommends that young adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. If you’re currently running on three hours of sleep, (like myself) that number may seem laughable, but it’s what the experts say. If you miss out on sleep one night, you accumulate short-term “sleep debt” which you should make up for as soon as possible – trying to make up for a semester’s worth of “all-nighters” during spring break just won’t work.


If you have trouble falling asleep at night, take a look at your lifestyle.  Sugar, alcohol and marijuana can all impact the ability to fall and stay asleep. Caffeine has been shown to linger in the system and interfere with sleep for over six hours after being ingested.


For those nights when sleep deprivation is inevitable, try to structure your sleep to the get the maximum amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM sleep is the most effective portion of the sleep cycle and the real reason behind that “refreshed” feeling you get after a full night’s sleep.


Generally, a sleep cycle is 90 minutes long and REM sleep occurs during the last 20 minutes of that cycle. An interrupted REM cycle can leave you feeling groggy the entire day, regardless of how much sleep you were able to get. To avoid this, many experts recommend sleeping in 90 increments. This means sleeping for 1.5 hours, 3 hours, 4.5 hours, and so on. Obviously, the amount of sleep your brain would prefer is 7.5 or even 9 hours.


Every brain is different, so these cycles will vary from person to person, but the 90-minute cycle is a good thing to explore and see if it works for you. Sleeping in cycles will not eliminate the need for seven to nine hours of sleep, so it should only be used as a last resort.


For more information on how important sleep is to your daily performance as well as the long term effects of sleep deprivation, check out the Sleep Disorders Health Center on