Catch a wink so your brain can think

By Laura Staples

Most students don’t get enough sleep during finals, one the most important times.


For many, finals week seems to be approaching faster than students can open their textbooks and begin to study. This week is the last of classes at Rider, and students are beginning to feel the pressure.

When trying to deal with classes and studying while managing a social life, there does not seem to be much time for sleep. Somehow getting rest is always last on the list of things to do each day for most college students, and the mindset remains: “We’ll sleep when we’re dead, right?”

According to Marcella Frank, co-director of the Capitol Health Center for Sleep Medicine in Hamilton, N.J., this is wrong. She also added that unless failing is also on a person’s to-do list this week, sleep should be his or her number one priority.

Frank hosted a seminar on Tuesday in the Shapiro Board Room covering all things sleep related, stating that adequate sleep will help students get ready for finals week.

“Sleeping is the best way to cram for exams,” she said. “Your brain retains everything you’ve been cramming when you’re asleep.”

She explained that there are three stages of being: wake, sleep and Rapid Eye Movement, or R.E.M. sleep. During R.E.M. sleep, all of the information received during the day soaks into a person’s memory.

The good news is that the brain will organize the information and create a filing system so new material is retainable.

The bad news, however, is that most college students either do not get the proper amount of R.E.M. sleep or get none at all. This is usually a result of all-nighters and excessive caffeine intake.

“Students tend to think pulling all-nighters will help cram more information, but focus and attention are severely compromised by lack of sleep,” Frank said.

Insomnia should not be blamed for sleepless nights either, though. Frank said that in numerous studies, patients who have claimed to be insomniacs fell asleep within five minutes of lying in one of the comfortable study rooms.

At the Center for Sleep Medicine at Capitol Health, where Frank observes people with sleeping problems, there are numerous rooms equipped with beds, bathrooms, televisions and an ambience conducive to a proper night’s sleep.

In order for a person to get optimum rest, they need to eliminate any and all interruptions and actually relax.

“With all of the distractions of a college dorm, or even at home, people have a much more difficult time falling asleep,” Frank said.

Whether one is an insomniac or just pulling too many all-nighters, the most commonly utilized form of self-medication is napping. Unfortunately, naps are not the same as a full night’s rest.

The R.E.M. stage is the most important time during sleep, which napping cannot make up for. The more sleep one gets, the more information he or she will retain, resulting in better grades.

After receiving all of this information, students who have not slept well in a while may feel a bit discouraged. There is a glimmer of hope, however, for those night owls: Frank also mentioned that although plenty of sleep (about 6-8 hours) is vital, some people just do not need as much shut eyes as others.

Visiting the Center for Sleep Medicine can help one find out if he or she is one of those people. The sleep center conducts its studies at night so the hours do not interfere with a normal business day and the services are typically covered by insurance.

Frank says it is important to listen to your body and sleep when you’re tired, regardless of whether that is for two or eight hours.

“My advice for students to optimize their studying and achieve the highest grades is to just sleep,” Frank said.

So, for the upcoming finals week, try and put down the book when your eyes start to droop and get some rest — your grades will thank you.

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