By: Priscilla Ip

As the school year progresses, there are more activities to get involved in, more responsibilities, more people to hang out with and more work to be done. The struggle between maintaining a social life, getting good grades and getting enough sleep persists. I’m sure it’s possible to have all three, but in reality, many McMaster students are still learning how to master their personal balance. Most people I know give up a good night’s sleep and favour the other two options.

After talking to several students on campus, my suspicions were confirmed. But why do so many choose to sacrifice their sleep for other priorities?

Looking around places like the student centre, it’s clear that pulling all nighters to study or staying out all night to be social are normal activities. Stereotypes about how students can’t wait until the break to catch up on sleep are commonplace.

Comparing university life to kindergarten is easy because the exaggeration that student life is filled with crying and naps might be true for a lot of people. Sleep, or more importantly the lack thereof, has seemingly become a joke, and the true value of sleep and the benefits it has to your body has become forgotten.

This may not only be a student-driven phenomenon. Policies change to accommodate for the fact that students are still up until 3 a.m. cramming for an exam. Thode is open 24/7 during exam season and Centro has extended hours.

Sleep is your body’s time to recover from all the exciting or stressful activities from the day. Your brain takes that time to process new information, your heart and blood vessels have time to heal and your hormones are regulated. Sleep is vital for your overall wellbeing ­— your mental, emotional and physical health.

According to research from Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, sleep deprivation can cause long-term health risks including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and a lower life expectancy. At least eight hours of sleep every night is recommended for optimal function, but this varies from individual to individual.

It’s normal for the idea of sleeping more to feel like a daunting or impossible task, but there are ways to manage this. We make choices based on our priorities. If our mentalities change, and sleep becomes one of those priorities, then we’ve completed the first step.

That can be easier said than done. Some tips on effective naps might help out! If you still find yourself falling asleep in the middle of the day, instead of reaching for a coffee, try a nap! Naps can leave you feeling refreshed, recharged and energized.

Studies show that power naps can improve mental and physical performance, decrease stress and improve your overall health. Shorter naps are great for increasing short-term alertness and giving you a quick source of energy for the next couple of hours. Longer naps can leave you feeling groggy when you first wake up, but after a while of moving around and settling it, studies show that your memory will improve and you’ll have a boost in creativity. The science behind your body’s sleep cycles is complicated, and may not work the same for everyone, but the only way to find out is to try these tips for yourself.

So during this busy midterm season, and later during exams, make sure that sleep is a priority. You can balance social life, good grades and rest if you dedicate yourself to it. Embrace the napping life and remember to give your body a chance to rest.

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