The universal enemy of students worldwide – regardless of gender, ethnicity, or age – is the report card that accompanies their end of the term. It is common occasion to see students (myself included), especially those in high school and above, squeezing out every inch of their brain to memorize incomprehensible geometry formulas for the upcoming quiz, annoying biosphere and taxonomy of the biology class that don’t seem to get anywhere, or maybe human impact on the environment in the geography lesson. The deadline is right before the nose, and the time is uncannily scarce at such critical moment which seemed to be infinite when there is nothing to do. In quest to conquer such overwhelming difficulties, a major population of the school resorts to one typical, but popular method: staying awake all night until the time limit.
The prime reason why many students choose to forsake their sleep in the schedule and focus on the work instead is because it appears to be working. The outside through the window is pitch dark, no noise of your sibling from the downstairs demanding mom to do all sort of parental chores, any kind of non-work thoughts blocked from your mind, it is almost magical how the mental concentration you have lost seems to be coming back, bring up the confidence that you can pass the test next day (it depends on each individual, but typically many stay awake a day or two before the test day).
The success rate of this method is, from personal point of view, highly subjective; sometimes it works, and some doesn’t. Only a handful number of individuals with some luck, however, is actually applied for such rate, for the lack of sleep ultimately does not help one doing better on the test – and learning.
At University of California and Stanford University, a team of scientific researchers conducted an experiment upon rats to observe the effect of sleeplessness: the rats without sleep had harder time exploring and memorizing the path of the maze compared to the counterparts that had sufficient amount of sleep. The other carried out experiments showed similar results.
However, it should not be much of a surprise to the public for many of you already had experienced the same drawback beforehand; the terms, numbers, words, definitions, every content you remembered just last night suddenly got erased from your brain notebook as soon as you see a test paper handed out on the desk.
Our brain is one of the most complex organs in all vertebrate animals; brain cells that compose this intricate part of the body require regular pattern, and sufficient amount of sleep to generate and function. But we usually neglect this signal that demands rest at night, in an excuse that we are too busy to pay attention to such “small matter”.
And it is not like we have not heard of similar research, experiments, and papers that allege and warn of the consequences should one has sleep under the average. After all, we are living in the digital civilization where we have access to all sorts of information and knowledge that we can read and use at will, so most of us are already informed of such danger.
However, the life is not as simple as that. The society we now inhabit allows very little time of rest for us –both students and adults – because there are other priorities: marks, future careers, expectation around, etc. We are aware that our demands more sleep in concern for our health, but the demands and expectations the world imposes upon us are too much to worry about anything else.
Nevertheless, despite such unbreakable barriers between us and sleep, it is imperative that we do what is best for us. Knowing that adequate time of sleep is absolutely essential to generate energies of our bodies, it would be quite a bit foolish to ignore such knowledge and continue on living in wrong patterns of days – the accumulation of tiredness after long period of sleep deficiency will eventually catch up to you.
On the surface, it looks as if comfortably resting eyes on the bed at night and waking up with freshness regularly is something absolutely out of option for those in the modern society, but if you put just a little effort into the “sleep-well project”, you shall see that there are many ways that can greatly improve both time and quality of your sleep: being strict about bedtime, avoiding sleep-disturbing chemicals such as alcohol and caffeine, going to bed when you are truly exhausted, going outside for some warm sunlight (daily UV light helps your body to maintain your internal sleep system), regular exercise, or using sleep tools like an eye mask.
Abraham Lincoln once said “if eight hours is given to me to chop a tree, I will spend six hours of that time to sharpen my axe”; in order to accomplish a certain goal, one needs to learn and improve strength to accomplish that goal. How about we, too, spend more time concentrating on our sleep – the axe –, instead of chasing after endless works and tight schedule that pile on our desk every day?