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Is Sleep Really For The Weak?

Words by: Maria Ana Gonzalez

Just why is sleep perceived as a trait of the weak?   Our goal, as students, naturally, is to graduate and perhaps even graduate with honors. By this point in the semester, most of us have probably found ourselves working on assignments past 1am and eventually having to wake up at 5am to beat the daily traffic. We’ve all probably experienced pulling all-nighters for exams, and dowsing ourselves in copious levels of caffeine in order to stay awake. In school the morning after, we’re groggy, confused and sometimes jittery because of the coffee. For too long, staying up late has been practiced by most students, so that sleep deprivation is no longer seen as alarming as getting low grades in a test.

There are many reasons students deprive themselves of sleep despite the transformations to zombie-like appearances and behavior. Some students claim that working at the last minute, late at night, works better for them because they are motivated by deadlines. Dark circles form around our eyes. Acne, thought to be long gone, makes several comeback attempts. For others, it is not about being inefficient or lazy but their active social life and several organizations cut well into their sleep-time.

“Sleep, study, or social life” is a mantra in college culture that calls for favoring two out of three options, and sleep is the most likely to be given up, the most dispensable of the three, because students can “catch up” on sleep whereas academic and social experiences, such as being with one’s crush, cannot be recreated. Really? The cheapest and best beauty treatment, the old folks say, is sleep.  Let us therefore ask ourselves: Wouldn’t my crush prefer me to be more beautiful and better able to converse than a groggy zombie?

The sleep deprivation lifestyle as practiced by students is unfortunately, even strangely, admired, as if there were some heroism in reducing sleeping time and that the big sleepers are really wimps. Students proudly say things like “I pulled two all-nighters this week” or “I partied until 2 am and still made it to my 7:30 class.”

For other students on social media, tweeting or posting phrases like “No Sleep This Week” or using “hashtags” like “TeamNoSleep” is a way of comforting themselves because it somehow makes it less terrible if other people are suffering with them. Sometimes, knowing that fellow students are still awake makes students feel pressured to think that they haven’t done enough work. We can also see funny lines that are meant to lighten the gravity of sleep deprivation like “The only good sleep I’ve had was when I was a baby” and “Why am I extremely productive at three in the morning?” As comforting and entertaining as these are, glorifying the unhealthy lifestyle coming from sleep deprivation only adds fuel to the fire.

In spite of sleep being a basic need, it is still treated by students as a luxury, as if it were an activity that is to be done only in their extra time. Indeed, not getting enough sleep has become the norm for the average college student. But things need not stay that way, as studies have shown time and again that inadequate sleeps results in poorer health.  Lack of sleep increases the chances of acquiring serious diseases. Less sleep actually increases risks of injury, while better sleeping habits may similarly lessen pains felt from prior injuries.  Lack of sleep results in crankiness and bad moods, and lessens our ability to maintain body weight. Not getting enough sleep diminishes our capacity to answer tests, solve problems and make decisions.

Sleep is not for the weak, but lack of sleep makes one weak.  Of the many activities of a student, should getting adequate sleep be sacrificed?  Why does something so important need to be sacrificed at all?  The truly well-rounded student is the one who, because he or she is well-rested, excels in tests, stays pretty and alert, and whose crush therefore, not acne, keeps coming back.