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“I need some bloody sleep, man!”

"I need some bloody sleep, man!"

Images flashed in front of my eyes. I was not able to relate them to what was being said. A voice filled up the room with its echoes, but at some point, the voice seemed to be disappearing further and further away until it was gone. What was left was a vague sound, coming from far away, almost as if it was coming from another room. Everything turned black…

After a while, the voice started to sound clearer and come closer and closer again. Then, it hit me and I woke up from the darkness. I was wide awake again. Well… let’s just say that I was awake. Not knowing what happened in the lecture before made me completely confused about everything the lecturer was talking about. I was not able to catch up anymore. I sat in silence trying to get my mind focused again. Do you know those people who play golf and constantly keep hitting balls to improve their aim and strength? At the end, all you see are small white balls lying everywhere around the field and in the water, and none actually being in the hole. I felt like the hole. Balls of information were being hit at me the whole time, but they kept flying past me. It wasn’t even morning. No, it was only 6 pm, but I had been at school since 9 am and still had 2 hours to go.

Finally, there was a break and I had some time to get fresh air. More than half of the people in the lecture hall rushed out. Sometimes, we do not even get breaks. These cases are the worst, especially when information just doesn’t get through you and you need some time to rehabilitate. Drs. Kirche argues that what happens in the human brain is simple:

“After studying or focusing on something for too long, the cells in your brain cannot process more information. This also depends on other factors, like a person’s capacity to store information and whether you are tired or not. Thus, focusing for too long influences your attention span and may affect your biorhythm.”

Breaks are usually only 10 to 15 minutes during lectures and tutorials. But what do we actually do in this time? We socialize, may look up some stuff on our laptops, or think about whatever we just discussed. Does our brain actually get some rest during the break? The only time when we are really resting is when we are sleeping. And let’s be honest, these times are the best times since you don’t have to worry about a thing.

Getting enough sleep, however, is a recurring problem for students because of their busy lives. According to studies, 15% of students fall asleep during class at least once a week. Moreover, 75% reports feeling “dragged out, tired or sleepy” more than once a week. This number does not shock me at all. What do universities expect from their students? Waking up at 6 am every day, staying at school for hours, going home, working for deadlines, sleeping late because of this, being fresh and awake at school the next day and managing to have a social life on top of that? Truth is, it is not feasible for students to be wide awake every single day at school. “I need some bloody sleep, man!”, as 19 year old biology student Umair Irfan puts it nicely, is a common phrase heard at school.

One may think that not sleeping enough is normal in contemporary’s “the world never sleeps” society, but what are the risks? When not sleeping enough, you are risking cognitive impairments which include memory dysfunction and stress. This means that the majority of information that you gain every day will not be processed well in the brain, causing information to be easily forgotten. Stress can ruin one’s rhythm and ignite other mental problems such as being anxious and emotional all the time.
Everyone knows that sleep is important. Second year psychology student Renato Lêoncio Ribeiro Soares tells us why:

Let me start off by telling you that not getting enough sleep will drastically affect your cognitive capabilities as you will not be 100% focused and therefore will not be able to perform according to your optimal potential. Sleeping or napping can help in alleviating stress and helps the body in functioning well. Information storage will improve when napping after having processed information. This means that the information will not slip from your mind as easily. On top of that, when a person is well rested, complex tasks can be focused upon better. In conclusion; napping will increase cognitive activity, which basically means more and better thinking.”

Research has been done on sleeping and knowledge about napping during study breaks has been proven to be beneficial for study results. Why are schools then ignoring these benefits instead of embracing them? Money is certainly not a good excuse since many schools try to improve their education or campus in several ways to attract new students.

There are some opportunities opening up in, for example, the Netherlands. The money that students used to receive as a grant is becoming a loan and money that is given to students in general is being reduced. The new regulation is meant to use the money that will be saved for going back into the educational system. Why not use this opportunity to give something back to students, something that they need?

Offering students napping areas so that they have the possibility to sleep for a while can improve their capacity to store and remember information. This will mean that more people can pass, thus will in the long run cost schools less money since there are more people who manage to pass. Harvard and the University of Michigan are considering building napping areas with the latter already building them. Other universities should follow their lead; it’s what students need…

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I believe in dynamics, for everything is always in constant change.

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