It was a late night when I should have been sleeping, but instead I found myself scrolling through Facebook. I noticed another Haas student, who’s a good friend of mine, updated their status: ‘You know it’s midterm season when I be brewing me a cup of coffee at 1 in the morning’ followed by a comment stating ‘This is what will make you successful.’
I see posts like these all the time, especially from Haas students – writing papers at 2 am, pulling my first all nighter at Cal – and I can’t help but cringe. I see many who parade their sleep deprivation records like Olympic gold medals, and It made me wonder, do people really think this is a good thing? That led to my next question; do students actually know how unhealthy their sleeping habits are?
So to answer my questions I conducted a survey from a small pool of Haas (and pre-Haas) students to gain more insight about their sleeping habits. Here were my results:
Question #1: ‘On weekdays, how many hours do you sleep each night?’
Roughly 10% reported 4 hours or less, 30% reported 5 hours, 35% 6 hours, 20% 7 hours, 8% 8 hours.
Question #2: ‘On weekends, how many hours do you sleep each night?’
About 5% reported 5 hours, 25% reported 6, 20% reported 7, 30% reported 8, and 20% reported 9 hours or more.
I’m sure someone out there is thinking “So what?” I’m sure many of you believe that 8 hours is the golden rule. However, some research shows that the optimum amount of sleep is actually 9.25 hours for young adults, since your brain is not fully developed until you’re 25 years old.
Question #3: ‘How many hours of sleep do you THINK you need each night?’
Roughly 65% answered between 7-8 hours, and 15% said 9 hours or more. The rest responded with 5-6.
The answers I got to my next questions were actually pretty surprising. One would think on a weekend, college students would stay up later, but the results showed differently.
Question #4: ‘On weeknights, around what time do you go to bed?’
It was a pretty even split between around 1 AM, and around 2 AM or later.
Question #5: ‘On weekends, around what time do you go to bed?’
15% 11 PM, 10% midnight, 20% 1 AM, 55% 2 AM or later.
There’s no class to wake up for in the morning, and an abundance of parties, so why would students go to bed earlier on weekends? Well, they’re tired. When the body is deprived of sleep, it has a tendency to suffer from sleep rebound – basically making up for the lost sleep.
Question #6: How often do you pull an all nighter?
30% stated Never (go you!), 10% stated rarely (less than once per month), 40% stated Sometimes (about once a month), and 20% answered often (about once a week).
I found this to be pretty disturbing, as the results of sleep deprivation are devastating and in some cases, fatal. The two main effects of sleep deprivation include inability to pay attention (good luck focusing in class) and mental health problems (good luck keeping a job). I’ll go into more serious effects after reporting the remaining survey results.
Question #7: On a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you think the amount of sleep you get impacts your academic performance?
5% reported 1, not at all. 5% reported 2. 40% reported 3. 30% reported 4. 20% reported 5.
So you know that sleep is important to how you perform academically, why don’t you do it more? Sleep before learning is very important to help the brain store new information and create memories, and sleep after learning is important to consolidate them. Slow wave sleep that you get early in the night is useful for consolidating new, declarative memories, like facts. REM sleep (basically, when you’re dreaming) is important for assimilating those facts, and making associations among them. Also note, if you don’t sleep within 24 hours of learning something, your brain will not remember it! Take that into consideration when pulling an all nighter after going to an 8 AM class.
Question #8: ‘On a scale of 1 to 5, how often do you hear of Haas students having difficulty with sleep, minimal sleep, or no sleep?’
The results were pretty evenly split, slightly skewing towards the middle-higher side. This question I asked mainly to confirm it wasn’t just me hearing about people’s sleeping habits.
Question #9: ‘Which of these statements about sleep do you identify with?’
I provided a few different statements for respondents to choose from, and here were the results:
About 5-6% identified with “Sleep is for the weak. The less I sleep, the better off I’ll be.”
A whopping 66% chose “I’d like to sleep more, but there’s too much to do.”
About 22% chose “I love sleeping, I wouldn’t trade sufficient sleep for anything!”
And another 5-6% picked “Sleep isn’t that important to me, I have bigger priorities.”
It seems like the majority attitude about sleep seems to be that students want more sleep, but they have too many things prioritized above it. Where do we go from here? Is there a problem in the way that students prioritize things? Is society pressuring students to believe that sleep equates to laziness? Maybe you think that there isn’t a problem at all, and that things are fine as they are. Let me share some more facts about sleep deprivation, and maybe you’ll change your mind.
Your immune response is reduced by about 50% when you’re sleep deprived. Your amount of natural killer cells, which are necessary for immune function, is decreased by around 73%. What does this mean? You are more susceptible to infection, and less capable of fighting infections off.
Your body’s ability to remove glucose from the bloodstream is reduced by 40% when you’re sleep deprived. What does this mean? When you’re sleep deprived, your glucose levels are similar to those of a pre-diabetic.
When sleep deprived, your body’s hunger hormones become completely imbalanced. The hormone that says ‘eat’ rises, while the hormone saying ‘don’t eat’ falls. You also crave foods with higher carbohydrates. Basically, if you plan on losing weight, getting enough sleep should be a priority.
A study was performed on rats which exposed them to complete sleep deprivation from 11-32 days (prior to their death). It showed that the longer the rats were awake, the more they ate. However, the more they ate, the more weight they lost. How could this happen? These events actually started as the rats lost their ability to regulate their body temperature.
Not only that, but the rats began to show a debilitating appearance, with severe lesions on their tails and paws. Their immune systems failed, which is believed to be the reason they ultimately died. The rats died just as quickly from sleep deprivation as they would have from food deprivation.
Driving after being awake for 22 hours straight is the equivalent of getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, as the amount of attentional lapses (micro sleeps – that moment you begin to doze off in class and you jump back up in your desk and wonder if anyone noticed) you have increases the less sleep you have. It only takes a 4 second lapse to cause a major accident.
Speaking of attentional lapses, the amount you have is highly related to the amount of sleep you get each night. However, if you continuously only get 4-6 hours sleep, over time, the amount of lapses you have becomes just as bad as someone who has pulled an all nighter.
Sometimes I hear folks say, “Oh, it’s okay, I can catch up on sleeping when I’m older.” Actually, you can’t. As you age, your brain’s ability to stay in slow wave sleep declines, and eventually is absent. Basically, you’ll reach a point when you’ll no longer have deep sleep. Those deep sleep stages are very important for consolidating memories, which is a possible explanation for why older people have trouble remembering things. Enjoy your sleep while you still can!
Also, when you’re sleep deprived, it can cause your emotions to go haywire. When you lack sleep, the connection between the pre-frontal cortex (part of the brain responsible for logic) and the amygdala (part of brain responsible for emotion) is severed. Basically, there’s nothing stopping your emotional part of the brain from going out of control.
I apologize if I’ve frightened anyone, but hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about the importance of sleep. If anyone has questions, or would like to know more about any of the studies that I mentioned or that were performed to conclude any of this information, please reach out to me. I can give you a more detailed answer, or refer you to someone who can.
If you’re interested in more sleep statistics, here is a fun graphic shared by fellow blogger Rafy Choi:
Obviously the lack of sleep among us here at Haas, and the student body as a whole, is a major problem that I don’t know the root of, and I don’t know how to fix. So I leave you with this: What do you think the problem is? Why don’t you get enough sleep? What can we do to change this epidemic?
Sleep on that, good night!