Battling the blurry-eyed mornings

Sara Williams

Sleep deprivation causes fatigue, muscle aches and poor motor skills

Chasing tiny snowman-shaped monsters down supermarket aisles to save the world’s butter supply from being poisoned may seem exhausting, but a night spent in dreamland proves the chase worthwhile as it leaves the sleeper refreshed.

The blurry eyes and giant coffees that sleepless students take to class suggest a population that isn’t getting all the rest it needs.

Cramming for exams, stress and partying are among the culprits that rob students of sleep and make life more difficult.

“If you sleep-deprive anybody, the intellectual parts of the brain don’t function as well,” said Mark Beebe, manager of the Streetsboro Sleep Center. Math and science are considered intellectual skills.

Sleep is a time for whole-body restoration. It’s during the rapid eye movement sleep phase, or deep sleep, that information is processed for the brain.

If deep sleep phases are skipped or disrupted, the results may be fatigue, muscle aches, irritability, lack of concentration, poor motor coordination skills and lowered immune system functioning.

“When you’re young, you push through it, but you need as much as anyone else,” Beebe said.

Sleep has been getting more attention since its links to health problems like depression were discovered, Beebe said. Many of these problems are studied at the Streetsboro Sleep Center, although the patients are generally older than college students.

Functioning on little sleep is possible, especially for those between the ages of 18 and 22, Beebe said. From the mid-20s up, however, the body more acutely feels the toll of late nights.

The amount of time a person needs varies between individuals.

“Literature says eight hours,” Beebe said. “For some adults about seven is enough.”

The phrase “quality not quantity” explains why some people function well on six hours of sleep while others need more.

Although he said he can make it on the handful of hours he gets now, Eric Spitzer, a senior architecture major, said he hopes for a lot of sleep after graduation.

“I’ll get my good ten hours of sleep each weekend,” Spitzer said.

Kelly Slack, a junior nutrition major, said she likes about seven or eight hours of sleep. She listed school and stress as the main culprits holding her back from feeling rested.

Recovering from weekends of partying or long weeks may be the biggest fatigue-inducing factors for college students, said Sheethal Reddy, assistant director of the Psychological Clinic.

The effects of too little sleep could be carried into the classroom.

“It might affect them (students) in small ways like taking them longer to learn something or to concentrate,” Reddy said.

Long periods of sleeplessness can even effect motor skills and should not be taken lightly.

“For people who have been extremely sleep-deprived, it can look like they’re intoxicated,” Reddy said.

Contact student life reporter Sara Williams at [email protected].