This is a post by our newest writer, Brandon Wlosinski (pronounced Wol-insky). Brandon is an Architecture major at Iowa State University, so he knows a thing or two about not getting enough sleep.
Whether you are a studious worker, a multi-tasking project manager, or a budding socialite, chances are that at some point in your life as a college student, you are going to come to a point where sleep is going to take a back seat to other events in your life. This is never an ideal situation, as sleep is a natural bodily function and a requirement to maintain a healthy college life – physically, emotionally, and financially (more sleep = less Red Bull).
So how do you manage getting through the night and the day after if you happen to find yourself pulling an all-nighter? Well, here are some tips from a guy in a major that almost requires late nights:
Get Some Sleep
First and foremost, if you have time to sleep, take it! Seriously. It isn’t cool to stay up all night, despite what a number of people around you might say. Your performance in class, at work, and in exams is all based on getting enough Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. As enticing as going out or playing games all night might be, plan accordingly. If you have a 7 AM exam the next few days, getting restful amounts of sleep in the nights leading up to the exam will help you more than staying up late studying will. The later into the night you study, the less your mind will commit to memory. You will become all too familiar with thoughts like “I remember studying this chapter, but what was it about?!”
If you feel that you don’t have the time to sleep, try to make some. If you can get a friend to take notes for you in an early morning lecture, ask them. If you can miss an hour of work in the morning, ask for the time off. Take naps that fit to a REM cycle, which usually amount to about an hour and a half. Mid-day naps help a lot when it comes to energy and productivity, and almost every college campus will have an area that you can settle down in for a while and rest. To reiterate again, if there is a way you can get sleep, get it.
As a side note, you may have heard about a thing called the UberMan sleep schedule. This is a technique featured on LifeHack and other websites in which a person sleeps a half hour every three hours, and leads to what is considered by some to be the most efficient sleep schedule. If you are just starting out at college, do not even think about attempting this. It is difficult and hazardous to your health and work if you do not adjust correctly. While this can lead to efficient work habits, it will more than likely lead to you burning out quicker and harder than before.
Stay Active and Social
During the night hours, stay active. If you find yourself doing a repetitive task, take the time out to walk around. I am not saying to stop being productive, but maybe take five, go to the bathroom or water fountain and take a lap around the building you are in. Sitting in one place for too long will just wear your brain down and put yourself to sleep.
If you are going to stay up late, try to do it in groups. This helps you actively participate in the group and conversation instead of letting your mind go numb with whatever you are doing. It also helps to have a group, as they can make objective observations as to your physical and mental state. While staying up late, it’s easy for a person to delude themselves into thinking they are better than they are. Having friends around will help you stay safe and healthy while up late while being productive.
Keep it Healthy
While staying up late or surviving the day after, try to stay away from a large amount of energy drinks. Moderation is the key word here. These drinks can help you power through an hour or two, but be warned that the more you drink, the less of an effect there is going to be as time goes on. Your nerve endings in your brain are deadened by the stimulation and require more to get the same rush. Small shot drinks, like Five Hour Energy, are slightly less harmful, as they are vitamin boosts that help your body absorb energy quicker, but are still not something you want to get hooked on. These kinds of drinks are neither economical, nor helpful as they might at first appear. These drinks are made to be addictive and to keep you buying more. You will quickly find your bank account drained from the spending. Once again, I am not saying stay away all together; they can help you get through, just remember to use them in moderation.
Try to instead stick to water. Believe it or not, I have personally found that keeping some cold water on hand helps dramatically, especially in lectures. Your body simply needs a quick shock into staying awake, activating a small part of your fight-or-flight instincts. Another thing to do is to keep your mind busy with doodling or a puzzle that isn’t too difficult. If you feel yourself dosing, try to psyche yourself out to give yourself a little shot of adrenaline. If you are going to down energy drinks, try to stagger them throughout your time awake.
Another thing to stay away from is sugar and fat. If you know you are going to be up all night, then for dinner go for the carbohydrates. Bring snacks such as grain bars that are high in carbs as well. Once again, sugar will give you a big temporary boost, but you are going to need something more substantial in order to power through an all-night study session or work night. Staying up late already causes physical issues, and leads to becoming overweight and lethargic. Eating junk food only adds gas to the fire.
Get some sleep! I know this is my third reiteration, but if it is at all possible, go and get it. I have seen a number of freshmen students burn themselves out before their first semester is over with. Being on your own requires you to be more responsible for the time that you are taking to do other things and setting aside enough time to sleep. It’s a tough lesson to learn the hard way, and it takes a toll on the body that will take years to correct. Sleep debt is a very real thing. The less and less sleep you get, the more and more your body needs in order to fully recover. This is a basic instinct of the human body, and it needs this sleep time to recover and process. When you bypass this process for a day, you need to try your hardest to set aside more time later in order for your body to recover.