When one looks around a lecture theatre, nodding, lolling heads are a rather common sight. Poking friends with a pen to wake them, or being poked with a pen to be roused is commonplace. Post-lecture, a common complaint is, “I missed so much content again? I shouldn’t have slept so late last night!” Clearly, a lack of sleep plagues many Victorians. We all complain about it, we all see what happens because of it, but do we really know what causes this lack of sleep, and what exactly it does to us?
When your alarm clock doesn’t go off
Being a student is a full-time job. The worst part is that you don’t get paid. Hours of tutorials, lectures, some even back to back (to back) is the part of the day that you look forward to the least when you wake up in the morning. Did I mention that our CCAs (while more enjoyable) also extend our busy schedule by at least another 2-3 hours a week?
There are a quite few reasons where we find ourselves at fault for getting to bed late.
All those latecomers in the morning standing outside the hall… they remind us of something… usually the mountains and truckloads of homework we get each day, the never ending game of catch-up where there are no winners, and the part where we forget to set an alarm to wake up on time for school. But let us not forget that they may be the night owls and ‘closet muggers’ that burn the midnight oil feverishly to somehow complete their daily routine and stay on track.
Maybe you laughed too much at that last sitcom or that lame joke your best friend sent you on Whatsapp. Or you worry that your crush won’t like the flowers you’re planning to give her. Excitement, stress and worry are also common reasons why you lie in bed with your eyes wide open, tossing and turning, long after your bedtime (no matter how late it is).
You know all those dinner and after-dark activity invites you’ve been getting? They all contribute towards your bedtime being pushed back further and further. Those addictive and stimulating phone games you play as well. Added to the aforementioned truckloads of homework, it’s no longer just staying up late once to read that next sequel of Harry Potter like we did when we were kids; it’s the entire lifestyle we lead as teenagers.
A Day of Lack of ‘Z’s
Nodding off? Drooling again? These are the most visible symptoms of a lack of sleep, but they are definitely not the only ones. While awake and conscious (to whatever extent), you are usually unable to focus on what is being taught. When the teacher goes through the tutorials that were worked on so feverishly the previous night, how many of us can really say that we are paying full attention, and process every single word said? Often, we find ourselves furiously copying the answers, and swearing to go over them later to get a better grasp of the content (or just swearing, really), but how often does that happen, when we’re already so pressed for time?
After a restless night, we may also find ourselves snapping at friends out of irritation, and displaying other aggressive behaviour. This may lead to strained ties, especially when the effect is amplified by both friends being equally aggressive. Another possibility could be excessive cheerfulness or a heightened sense of humor- where we are too easily amused. A little joke or someone falling off a chair could prompt a fit of laughter that lasts much longer than the (apparently) comical act warrants. However, the very opposite may also occur- like the dark shadow of a giant that looms over a tiny village, terrorising the townsfolk; a sense of great sadness may overwhelm a person completely and leaves them despondent and unable to function.
In the long run, we may find ourselves looking into the mirror and not recognising ourselves. Indeed, the lack of sleep may cause alterations to one’s body. Permanent, puffy panda eyes, a smattering of acne, or even an expanded waistline. The last one tends to be caused by a combination of hormonal imbalances and binge-eating – in turn caused by an inability to differentiate the body’s cravings for food and for sleep. So upon a lack of sleep, we may find ourselves ordering one dish more than usual at the Mixed Vegetable Rice stall, or a triple overdose of potatoes at the Western Stall (potato salad, potato wedges & mashed potato). While this behaviour is perfectly alright once in a while, in the long run, we may find ourselves almost unable to fit into our uniforms (and hence having to make the slightly embarrassing trip to the bookshop to purchase a uniform one size larger.)
The Need for Sleep (Solutions)
Between you and me, dear reader, the myriad of scientific studies do show we could use roughly eight hours of sleep a day. It’s per pax, and meant to be consumed in one go. (At least in 24 hours). But how can we achieve what seems like a distant dream- sleeping an entire third of our day away, usually only able to occur in the far-off fantasy world that is the holidays?
Don’t deliberately attempt to screen a movie a few hours before your bedtime. The piercing bright light really dilates your pupils. Don’t use your mobile phones either; they emit that irritating blue light you may have heard of that tends to keep you awake. Also, try your best not to nap too close to your bedtime. It really messes with your sleeping patterns. If it helps, establish a bed and wake-time schedule and stick to it. Don’t give a crummy reason for yourself to stay awake forever, get some rest! (Even on weekends, when the luxury of sleeping in is readily available). Besides this, as tempting as it sounds to listen to that new single of your favourite rock and roll band or have that last game of Candy Crush to unwind before bed, DON’T. Do not attempt to stimulate, or excite yourself (in any way) before bedtime. You may have some trouble lowering your heart rate later. If you really must wind down, try a soothing piano piece or some deep-breathing exercises.
The most important, life-saving and life-changing tip of all is to PRIORITISE. The word which was preached to every J1 and 2 since the first day of school. For years, this word has been passed from lip to lip without even the foggiest idea of knowing how to do it. Prioritise also spells trouble in the form of NATO syndrome (No Action, Talk Only), with it being easier said than done. The best advice any individual can get is to cultivate good habits and stick to them, rather than rely on a planned schedule to pinpoint every moment of your day on a calendar entry. (If subjected to external stress, disequilibrium will take place pretty quickly, and this would create the very opposite of productivity.) Such good habits include creating to-do lists (which provide all the organisation and ranking required without the pressure of time slots) or even just allowing for buffer time in between tasks so that minor disruptions (like a five-minute delay- oh the horror!) will not wreck the timetable completely- thus allowing you to complete your homework on time, and hence get that good night’s rest.
I Told You So
So after this long article dear reader, you find yourself armed with more knowledge about the benefits of sleeping and therefore, the need to get to bed early. But what good is knowledge, and hence power, if you don’t use it? Exercise your power. Let it become a good habit for you, and let it re-energize yourself after the battles you won at a hard day at school. It’s a long, winding, dusty road ahead, and sleep will be one of your lifelong companions against your various foes- whether it be the evil prince or the fire-breathing dragon, or well, really just tomorrow’s math test, may sleep, and sleeping well- reap you the best of successes in all of your goals.
(But if you don’t, and once again find yourself suffering the consequences, our only comment will be “I Told You So.”)
Yeong Su Ann