Skip the latte: sleeping is more substantial than your caffeine fix

September 19, 2016

Eleanor Sturt

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     One basic function everyone knows from the time they’re babies is how to sleep.

     Now, as college students, sleep is harder to attain. We don’t get enough of it.

     The adult human needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night, and I bet you don’t get anywhere near that amount once mid-terms start.

     Granted, being a college student is hectic; between homework, a job and a social life, there really isn’t time for sleep. It’s easy to prioritize last on the list, because we have energy drinks and coffee to keep us awake.

     But drinking excess amounts of caffeine can damage your body.

     Adenosine receptors in the brain make you feel tired. When caffeine reaches the brain, it binds to the adenosine receptors and works against the adenosine receptors’ drowsy effect.

     The added adenosine causes the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, which makes you feel alert and energized. Caffeine essentially tricks your body into thinking it doesn’t need to sleep.

     It doesn’t actually replace your body’s physical need to sleep.

     Our bodies do not shut down during sleep. Instead, they carry out vital functions that are accelerated when sleeping, such as bringing oxygen to the brain, which helps build and store memories.

     When the brain does not get the downtime it needs, it cannot perform simple functions like memory, cognition and motivation.

     That all-nighter you pulled was probably doing more harm than good; you may have memorized those equations perfectly, but you will not be able to retrieve those memories when you brain has not had its rest.

     Sleep is essential, but it is a struggle to get to bed at a decent time when there is so much to get done.

     But there are ways that you can get those eight hours in and avoid drinking five cups of coffee every day.

     To start off, go to bed without your phone. People claim that checking social media platforms before sleeping is relaxing and helps them fall asleep. It may be a mindless activity that helps you relax, but it does not help you fall asleep.

     Once you check Facebook, you still have to check Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.

     The light emitted from your phone screen messes with your circadian rhythm, your natural body clock. The artificial light is telling your brain that it is not yet time for bed.

     This effect applies to not only your phone, but also your computer, so Netflix is out of the question, too. My condolences to your late-night binge watching.

     You should also leave six hours between your last dose of caffeine and going to bed. It takes four to six hours for caffeine to stop working, and you are going to struggle going to bed when your brain is full of energy.

     Set aside time for sleep. I know it’s difficult to schedule time to sleep. Just remember how important it is for your body to get the rest it actually needs.