Some people have had the privilege and luxury of never taking a 7:45 a.m. class, but if you are like me, every single day this semester has begun with you scrambling to gather your things in the morning to make it right as your 7:45 a.m. class or 5:45 a.m. lifting. It is exhausting to start the morning with the type of anxiety that only equates to seeing PGC in the flesh. Now, it may be easy to say “well, just go to sleep earlier” or “you’re just being a lazy college student.” However, I would like to contest this on all levels. I read a wonderful book called “Why We Sleep” by neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker (you should read this) which helped me to understand how sleep affects every single aspect of our lives. All the research and facts stated will come from this book and the brilliant opinions and humor will come from me.
I want to make it clear, I am not condemning people who do not get enough sleep every night. I am only criticizing the systems which lead to people deciding to sacrifice their sleep. Let’s be honest, none of us have a perfect sleep schedule, but we are pushed to believe lack of sleep is not only the norm but the expectation. If you are not staying up late or getting up early, some might perceive you as lazy. First, you are not lazy because of your sleep schedule. Second, Walker makes a clear and well-researched claim that no facet of the body is spared from the effects of sleep loss.
Sleep loss causes devastating effects on the brain, leading to numerous neurological and psychiatric conditions and contributing to countless disorders and diseases. Lack of sleep severely impacts focus, memory and mood leading to diminished physical and intellectual capabilities. If there was a drink, pill or food which prevented all these negative health outcomes, I would want that product so badly. I would even transfer to Dordt if that was the only way to get it.
College students also have a circadian rhythm that delays the release of melatonin leading to the age group typically still being wide awake by 11 p.m. Our age group has a body and brain which naturally goes to sleep and wakes up later than our societal structures allow for. I do not have to convince you getting more sleep is a good thing. Everyone needs a minimum of eight hours of sleep. However, having to wake up early when the body does not have the capability of falling asleep until much later in the night is a tall order. Not to mention the amount of homework which is done late at night which also prevents healthy sleep habits. Also, the college social life is mostly at night. I do not know about you, but I am more than happy to lose sleep for a few extra hours of social time. My point is there needs to be understanding and change. College students may be adults, but our brains are still developing and need more rest.
We live in a society where we are rewarded for a lack of sleep because the lack of sleep produces results. Our society has made it worthy of praise to put our bodies through extremely negative health effects to satisfy the expectations being placed onto us. You are worth more than what you can give to other people.
The bodies God gave us need to be taken care of. While I am not a perfect model of sleep behaviors, I passionately believe that if everyone slept a minimum of eight hours, we would have a healthier and happier society. We would have overall improved mental health, physical health, the capacity to learn well and more. Treat each other with radical empathy and compassion, prioritize your and others’ rest and stop bragging about getting no sleep.