It is 9pm. Your essay is due tomorrow at 10am and you have barely started! You mentally calculate and reason with yourself: ‘If I cut down on my sleep tonight, and wake up early tomorrow to complete it, that is an extra 3 or 4 hours more for this essay!’
Convinced that it was the best idea you have made that day for the sake of your grades, you burn the midnight oil, cutting down your previously 6 hours of sleep to just merely 3 hours of sleep. Does this situation sound familiar? If you are a student, you have probably found yourself in this situation before. Is burning the midnight oil the best choice you are making? What does it do to your body?
Sleep Deprivation in Singapore
Firstly, getting just 5 hours of sleep per night is not enough. While sleep requirements vary with different people, most healthy teens (age 14- 17) would require 8 to 10 hours of sleep, while adults (age 18-64) require about 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Year after year, Singapore is found to be one of the most sleep deprived nations in the world. In fact, Singapore is the 3rd most sleep-deprived nation out of the 43 that were profiled in a recent report, trailing behind Tokyo and Seoul.
The effects of sleep deprivation is extensive. A study by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) showed that the lack of sleep in students negatively impacts their ability to retain information and to integrate new information on problems. This is because learned information is replayed and reactivated during sleep, so with sleep deprivation, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, losing ability to retained learned information.
Sleep deprivation also negatively impacts moods, giving a sleep-deprived person mood swings. Such mood swings affects our ability to acquire and retain new information. Numerous other studies have assessed sleep in students and its correlation with grades and test taking abilities, with all pointing to the same direction- burning the midnight oil to revise your work is not be the best solution for your learning in the long term. Although sleep deprivation affects different people in different ways, it is clear that having a good night’s rest has a strong impact on our learning and memory.
1. Study Smart
Studying smart can save you all the trouble of needing to even stay up late in the first place. Manage your time well and create priorities for the assignments or subjects that need more attention. By studying smartly, you will be addressing the root of the problem, which is ‘insufficient time’ for doing your work.
Try to cut your caffeine intake by 2pm. It may be tough at first, but the earlier you stop drinking it, the earlier you will get to bed at a decent hour. In replacement of caffeine, you can take small 20minute power naps throughout the day.
3. Electronic Devices
All of us would be guilty of scrolling through Facebook or Instagram while lying in bed. Even I am guilty of this almost every night, but it has to stop. The artificial light that comes from our cellphones or tablets make it more difficult to fall asleep, making us more alert and messes up our sleep cycles.
You might find it helpful for your sleep to exercise in the day. Try to exercise at least 30minutes a day. There is no need to be running a full marathon- it could be as simple as walking or some stretches. This way, your heart rate increases and you burn the energy, making it not only beneficial for your health, but also leads to excellent sleep at night.
Taking the first step in getting more hours of sleep may be difficult at first, with the overwhelming work that you always seem to have on your hands. Nevertheless, having sufficient sleep is important for your health and quality of work so do not be afraid to take that leap of faith!