I came into college fully expecting to be sleep deprived for four years straight.
This is the culture we've come to perpetuate—college students don't sleep. It's not the worst reputation to have (nor is it our only one), but the expectancy of sleep deprivation before heading into undergrad should raise some red flags.
Why don't we sleep? Most point a finger at schoolwork. It's become a sort of status symbol to stay up until dawn, to take a nap in lieu of getting a night's rest or even to pull an all-nighter in the name of getting homework done.
And guess what? Our work and studies don't ever actually become less burdensome after prioritizing them oversleep.
Don't get me wrong, I fully understand staying up to meet a deadline. I've been there. What really hurts, however, are the late night cramming sessions right before an exam.
Unsurprisingly, sleep deprivation just makes focusing on things harder. When you're tired, you won't soak in information in the same way as you would if you were functioning on a healthy eight hours.
Second, our brain does a lot without you even knowing it. Like, a lot. Memory in particular benefits a great deal from what your brain does subconsciously—this includes the time when you're asleep.
Sleep itself is essential for the formation of long-term memories. This is what students should be going for! Through a process called consolidation, our memories are stabilized and sorted out so we can better access them when we need them. Recent studies have determined that consolidation runs at its best during slow-wave sleep (SWS), otherwise known as deep sleep. This means that to take full advantage of our brain's ability to consolidate our memories without us actually doing any extra work, we need this sleep.
In order to get more deep sleep, professionals have suggested two things. First—and I'm sorry about this one—people actually need to be getting an adequate amount of sleep! Besides this, professionals suggest aerobic exercise: jogging, cycling, and the like. For those who have trouble sleeping, it's best to keep the exercise earlier in the day.
There's nothing to scoff at when it comes to prioritizing your sleep schedule. By making sleep a priority, you also make memory retention a priority. Being a student is no joke, but neither is your night's rest.