Posted by: Dorothy Ahn | March 15, 2010

Sleeping Through Midterms

The first week of March was just terrible for me: four midterms, two shows to go to, and my little brother visiting. My brother’s visiting is included in my list of terrible things of the week, not because I don’t like my brother, but because I like him too much that I could not focus on other things I had to do.

For the whole week, one could catch me walking around with my glasses and my I-am-studying-for-midterms-hair style, with my eyes more than half closed on Locust Walk and even more in lectures. I used to go to sleep at 10:30 PM and wake up at 7:30 AM. Now I go to sleep at 3:00 AM and – sadly – I still wake up at 7:30 AM. This was definitely not enough sleep for me, and my tendency to fall asleep in every class told me so.

On my third day of trying to stay up – and often failing – I found an article about sleeping cycles and good-sleep methods. According to the article, the optimal time to sleep is from 10 PM to 3 AM. WebMD states that this is the time when melatonin, the sleep hormone, is released. At this time, the hormone repairs the body and lets one wake up with a refreshed feeling rather than a sluggish reluctance. The five hours of sleep one gets from 10 PM to 3 AM help the body so much more than five hours – or more – that one gets after 3 AM. Also, an optimal nap time for average individuals is 15 to 30 minutes – due to many reasons including REM cycles, the right timing, and more we learned in PSYC 001.

This article told me that what I have been doing until now – staying up until I finished all my work and going to sleep then – was all wrong. So, for the two more days left of the week, I decided to follow the sleeping cycle rules. I went to sleep at 11 PM and woke up at 3AM to study. After classes, I came back to take a 20 minute nap. This might have been a placebo effect, but I did feel much better and awake after following this cycle. I really should have remembered the sleeping cycle diagram my PSYC professor showed us my freshmen year.

Of course, all the calculating numbers and setting five alarm clocks to ring at 3 AM could be avoided by planning out one’s study schedule and not cramming the week before the midterms. This, however, is a major part of many college students’ lives, and I am glad I found the solution for my sleeping problem.

And yes, mom, I know this is not “the solution,” because the real solution is dividing up my studying, eating enough food, and sleeping well. With my mom bringing me food because she is afraid the hardcore studying will starve me, and my dad calling me from Korea, because I “need to sleep more, it’s too late,” I better get started and plan out my study schedule for the fast-approaching finals.


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