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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian


    <ple experiencing sleep deprivation tend to integrate information less effectively, are more likely to make thinking and memory errors, and are more self-confident in their decisions. That is, when making these errors they are more easily convinced they are right. This is because the limbic system, the emotional system, becomes more active, while the cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain, is less active and perceptive. Basically, you can write a paper that is composed of absolute crap and be convinced it is the best paper you have ever written.

    As an example, let’s say you stay up till 4 in the morning to study for a 1a exam. Assuming your alarm wakes you up and you take the exam, it is probable you will be too tired to do most activities and assignments, or at least will not be able to do them well.

    The idea behind staying up is to cram more information into your head for the exam but in order for your memory and thinking abilities to work properly, sleep is necessary. Therefore withdrawing on sleep to study may not actually be more beneficial, especially when it comes to afunctioning memories (which is important for exams).

    Given, most students will at one point or another experience this situation, or a similar one. Ideally, it is important to catch up on sleep as soon as possible after the exam, before trying to complete other tasks or assignments.

    One common solution is to nap. The subsequent nap, in order to make up for the deficit, is recommend to consist of one or two sleep cycles, but no more. A sleep cycle is on average 90-100 minutes long, but varies from person to person.

    The time of day in which the nap is taken is also important for maximum effectiveness in terms of getting back on your “sleep track.” Napping should end no later than 4:00 in the afternoon.

    Napping too late in the day can delay the usual bedtime the next night, and in turn cause a long-term shift from the regular time of when if feels natural to fall asleep. This is called a delayed sleep phase shift.

    Early naps are also more beneficial because they ensure activity during the hours of the day when the sun is up. This benefits your circadian rhythmes, which should return to normal after alteration to their normal pattern (e.g. pulling an all nighter). These rhythms are a complex combination of hormonal and metabolic changes that impact alertness and the regularity of sleep. Morning sunlight is more critical to stabilizing your circadian rhythms than afternoon sunlight, so it is recommended that you rise by 9 a.m.

    In a sense, taking naps is a risk since it may cause further damage to your body’s normal patterns. If you stay up late one night, it may be best not to make an effort to get back to a normal schedule because this may causes a domino effect. Instead, try not to nap at all after an all-nighter, to help you get to sleep at a normal hour the next night.

    Another thing to remember is that caffeine is not an effective long-term way to deal with sleep deprivation. Caffeine only masks fatigue, it does not combat it.

    Rather than taking a nap or pumping yourself full of caffeine, especially after 4 p.m., take a brisk walk outside.

    For more information on sleep or the contents of this article, contact Colin Bottles ’09 or Drew Weis.

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