Michael Wood & Sierra Patheal
Sleep. What a waste, what a travesty. Such nonsense.
Now I know what my lazy readers are thinking. “Man, how can you hate sleep? Sleep is the only thing I’ve got going for me! What are you? A communist? Do you hate freedom?” To clarify, no, I don’t hate sleep. I actually love it, in the right doses. But let’s face it, there’s something you learn in every Econ class on the planet called opportunity cost.
In its most basic form, opportunity cost is merely the thing you give up when you have to choose between two exclusive options. A typical example of the opportunity cost would have to make a choice between going to college at CSULB or Georgia State. Now, the choice is easy for those of us reading the paper but it demonstrates opportunity cost well. You can’t practically attend two schools across the country at once, so you have to choose one. In sleep vs work, you can’t simultaneously inhabit two types of consciousness at once so you have to make a choice. The opportunity cost of one hour of sleep is one hour of recreation or productive activity, or building bonds with friends or exploration or any myriad of things. Why not sleep the least amount you can get away with when a whole world waits to be discovered and your entire life is in your hands?
It took until this semester for me to truly appreciate having a minimal need for sleep. I only need 6 hours a day, with a nap sometime in the afternoon or evening, and it’s the only thing that makes my lifestyle possible. Between a job, editing this fine page, carrying a full load of classes and still trying to make time for friends and family, every single minute in my day is precious. I waste enough time in traffic, sitting in line and watching TV shows at my friend’s insistence, while trying to convince myself they’re funny (I’m looking at you Two and a Half Men!). Why waste another minute?
Now let me just ask, what would you do with two extra hours in the day? Maybe you’d take more hours at work and make some cash. Maybe you’d read the classics, or catch up on your favorite shows, or study for your tougher classes, or even just vegetate on the couch, watching another lengthy episode of a Ken Burns documentary. I’m no doctor but many of you sleep around ten hours a day. You only need eight, put those other hours to good use.
Not to mention that a couple allnighters every once in a while have never been a bad thing. Yeah sure, your body may punish you for the sin of refusing the comfort of your bed, but from personal experience, it builds your work ethic. First off, denying your body’s most natural urges is a test and measure of will power. Do you really want that essay done? Do you really want to get through that whole season of Arrested Development? Well, your willingness to pull an all-nighter is a measure of how urgent something is to you. The D students in high school never pulled allnighters because guess what? They were never motivated to do so! You know who did though? My friends in the ivy league. Besides, the all-nighter itself, is a lesson in time management. Your body can take a few nights without sleep every once in a while, but you’ll never want to do it again if you can avoid it. There’s no way to better kick yourself in the ass and finally learn some time management and responsibility than to live a couple days as a zombie after midterms.
It doesn’t take a genius or even a halfway decent person to realize how much sleep can hinder their personal and professional development when you do so in excess. Sleep is a fantastic thing; in moderation like all other things in life. You’ll appreciate more if you go without it for a while and when you regularly sleep little, every single hour of rest will be golden.
Want to pass your midterms? Then put your textbooks down and sleep.
Contrary to common college opinion, sleep is neither a luxury nor a curse. It is a natural, undeniable component of human functionality, and it cannot be set aside or saved for a more convenient date simply because it’s midterm season. Although sacrificing sleep may save you time right now, by depriving your body and mind of rest, you are undermining your ability to succeed tomorrow.
When was the last time you slept for a full eight or nine hours? Remember the amazing sensation of relaxation and readiness when you woke up? It wasn’t a coincidence. Multiple studies have shown that sleep, apart from recharging the body’s physical ability to keep its eyes open, also acts as a reset function for the brain. Memories from the day are sorted, reorganized, consolidated, and restructured into something more accessible and usable while you’re catching your z’s.
Regular sleep during the semester will help your grades, because sleep supports long-term memory development. While you sleep, your brain goes through a process called “consolidation,” where short-term memories are solidified and organized. Kindergarteners have had it right all along. Learn a lesson, take a nap, and let your brain sort everything out.
Even in the short term, you might be better sleeping than studying the night before a big test. Researchers at Harvard say sleep spurs creativity, and adequate sleep is also proven to lower stress levels. You can come to your midterms exhausted, stressed, and buzzing on coffee and energy drinks if you want, but you’ll probably do better rested and ready to think.
The benefits of sleep aren’t all mental, either. Stanford says sleep improves athletic performance, and a number of studies (from the University of Colorado and the Canadian Medical Association Journal, among others) point to the link between sleep and weight loss. Apparently, people who sleep more lose more fat than test subjects following the same regimens, and prolonged periods of sleep deprivation can actually lead to dramatic weight gain. When you’re sleepy, hormones are released into your blood—the same hormones that spur your appetite. There’s a reason no all-nighter is complete without munchies, but after a while, it shows.
On a longer time scale, sleep has been linked to lowering inflammation, blood pressure, heart attack risks, mental health problems, and cholesterol. I’m not sure how direct any of those connections are—as an English major, I tend to take any scientific studies with the words “linked to” in them with a grain of salt— but one thing is clear: sleep more, live healthier. I’m not sure I can say it any simpler than that.
It’s true that if you’re measuring your success in terms of weeks, all-nighters might be worth it. I’ll admit to staying up into the early hours of the morning some days, when there simply is no wiggle room left, and the construction of this very paper keeps me up after midnight every Saturday this semester, but as a pattern, sacrificing sleep sets a dangerous precedent. It may save you today, but it will sabotage your work tomorrow. Remember that when you decide to stay up until 5:30 am reviewing your Calculus notes, okay?
Michael’s right; I’ve wasted a lot of time through naps and sleep. I’ve berated myself plenty of times for wasting half the day away with a “quick” nap that lasts four hours. That said, looking at everything sleep does, I don’t regret prioritizing it. Memory and mental health are worth a few extra hours of rest.