Are you getting sleepy?

Hello dear readers! This is my back-up post.

What is a back-up post, you ask? Well, we update UpbeaT everyday, right? But we’re all U of T students, so what happens when school hits and we don’t have time to write anything? Being U of T students, instead of not posting, we write a post ahead of time just for the occasion.

If you’re reading this, I’m either:

  1. sleep-deprived and buried under piles of lecture slides and colour-coded notes and trying to cram for an exam;
  2. sleep-deprived and buried under glasses of unfinished water and bowls of half-eaten instant noodle and trying to write an essay;
  3. sleep-deprived and sick;
  4. any variation of the above.

Regardless of which (edit: turns out, I’m choice 3 and 1, in that order), the common theme is sleep deprivation. So just what is sleep deprivation? Helpguide.org says you may be sleep deprived if you…

  • Need an alarm clock in order to wake up on time.
  • Rely on the snooze button.
  • Have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning.
  • Feel sluggish in the afternoon.
  • Get sleepy in meetings, lectures, or warm rooms.
  • Get drowsy after heavy meals or when driving.
  • Fall asleep while watching TV or relaxing in the evening.
  • Feel the need to sleep in on weekends.
  • Fall asleep within five minutes of going to bed.

Sound familiar? I’m pretty sure most of us have been sleep-deprived at some point during the school year. If you aren’t because you have such good time management skills (and luck, because Murphy is a horrible influence on Lady Luck) and you’re on top of everything? Honestly, kudos.

But what about the rest of us? Our schedules are varying levels of ridiculous and not “real world” at all. The well-meaning advice I get from non-students who say “just make sure you get your eight hours of sleep!” is unfortunately not realistic when all I’m trying to do is live from assignment to assignment while trying not to forget to eat. Robarts is open 24 hours for a reason.

I make do with naps, which has been scientifically proven to improve your ability to learn.

I don’t know about you though – sometimes I wake up from naps refreshed and energized and ready to go; other times I wake up and I’m groggy and for all intents and purposes, a zombie minus the cannibalism. I wondered how I can consistently get the good kind of nap, so I researched the science of sleep.

There are 5 stages of sleep: REM sleep and 4 stages non-REM sleep. You can read more about the scientific difference, benefit and purpose of both here and here, but generally, REM sleep replenishes the mind while non-REM rejuvenates the body. You enter REM (rapid eye movement) sleep first. This stage is the lightest and where you dream. Then you get into deeper stages of sleep (the non-REM sleep). Since sleep is cyclical, you can be in any point of the sleep stages when you wake up. So the groggy feeling you get is if you’re jolted awake from your deep sleep (non-REM). It’s like diving in deep waters – you can’t swim to the surface too quickly.

http://www.amazon.com/Sleeptracker-Wake-Up-Monitor/dp/B000E8FG20

What this means for us is that when we nap, we want to get into REM as quickly as possible and then kick* ourselves awake before we hit Stage 1 of non-REM. This is how we wake up feeling refreshed, more or less.

Since everybody’s circadian rhythm is different, I can’t exactly give you a definite amount of time to nap. Experts say between 15 to 30 minutes (Douglas Adams says 42!). Ideally, the way to figure out your ideal nap time is to be well-rested and keep a sleep journal to see whether you’re most alert when you wake up from a 15, 20, 25, or 30 minute nap. But if I had time to do that, I’d probably just sleep.

Here’s what I do. I budget for a half an hour nap, but I set two alarms. I set my wrist watch timer to go off after 20 minutes (it beeps for around 10 seconds) and then I have my phone go off like a bomb at 30 minutes in the most obnoxious, loudest noise possible. I keep both on top of my notes/binder/whatever I need to work on and away from the bed. I also keep my desk lamp on. That way, when my alarm rings, I have to get up from my bed to my desk, where it’s bright, and the work I have to do is right in front of me. I won’t just give in to the temptation to sleeeeeeeep. All I end doing is glaring at my phone and sitting down resignedly to work.

So why the wrist watch? When it goes off at 20, I either wake up, or I sleep through it. If I wake up within that 10 seconds, it means I got up at the right time of the sleep stage. I get up with a longing look back to my bed, but my mind is clear. If I sleep through it because I’m so exhausted, well, I still need to wake up, so at 30 minutes, brute force it must be. It’s better than waking up past 30 minutes, which I’ve found guarantees me grogginess or waking up 4 hours later, when the assignment/exam is due, and I’m groggy and not done.

A fun way to see if you’re awake? Go to BBC’s Sheep Dash. It checks your reaction time to tranquilize sheeps. I just went ahead and tried it and I need caffeine:

So dear readers, how are you faring? How does the week look? How do you balance school and work and extracurriculars and social life and sleep? What did you get for the Sheep Dash? Let me know in the comments!

- Cynthia

*C’mon, I’m talking about sleeping and dreaming. How can I NOT slip an Inception reference? If you haven’t seen it, omg, go now.

One thought on “Are you getting sleepy?

  1. Pingback: » Finals + Finals + Finals (ad nauseum) = Polyphasic sleep? UpbeaT

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