Sleeping the way to improved focus

Lucia Bosacoma, Opinions Editor

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Sophomore Grace Grouzard takes a nap after school as she does many days. Grouzard said naps help her stay energized and focused throughout the afternoon after a long and tiring day at school. Photo by Lindsey Masterman

After a long day of school and extracurriculars, junior Charles Kang begins to feel exhaustion sink in, but he still has work to do. He has a cup of coffee, does some push-ups, or holds his breath to accelerate his blood pressure so he can stay awake and focused. However, Kang recognizes that preparing for finals by sleeping can be just as important as preparing by studying.

“[After pulling an all-nighter], you remember being able to think clearly before, but you feel like you’re thinking through a fog, or you’re pushing through a thick molasses in your brain, and it’s not very comfortable,” Kang said.

According to William Burkes, medical director at Sleep Diagnostics of America in Houston, it is harder for students to remember and retain information they have studied if they do not get rapid eye movement sleep, also known as REM sleep. REM sleep is a stage in the sleep cycle that helps regulate body temperature and solidify memories in the brain.

“[It was found that] a single night’s sleep less than 5.5 hours [is] sufficient to reduce cognitive function the next day on things like attention and reaction tests, the ability to concentrate on tasks and complete tasks within a certain time period,” Burkes said.

According to Burkes, although the average adult needs about seven-and-a-half to eight-and-a-half hours of sleep out of 24 hours to function properly, there are some people who require substantially more sleep and people who require significantly less, although those hours of sleep do not all necessarily have to occur consecutively.

“[For] individuals who … have restricted nocturnal sleep, taking a nap during the day — if the opportunity presents itself — is a way of getting closer to the amount of sleep that you need,” Burkes said.

Sophomore Grace Grouzard said she takes naps almost every day after school.

“[Naps] help me get my sleep, or finish my homework or [work on] whatever I need to do,” said Grouzard. “Especially if I have a project or a test, to have a power nap for an hour … gives me a lot more energy.”

Kang said he likes to take 15-minute power naps whenever he can.

“Fifteen minutes is ideal if you don’t have a lot of time,” said Kang. “[Fifteen] minutes means that you’re able to just rest your brain for a little bit. You feel slightly more alert.”

Burkes said it is best to limit naps to one hour or less to avoid drowsiness.

“If you nap long enough to go into rapid eye movement sleep, and that normally takes about an hour and a half, … and then you wake up [in the middle of REM interval], you might feel kind of groggy,” Burkes said.

Kang, who is a regular coffee drinker, said he uses caffeine to stay awake and maintain focus on his work.

According to Burkes, the amount of caffeine present in two cups of coffee is detectable in the body for at least 14 days, and for a person who doesn’t drink coffee regularly, drinking it could interfere with his or her sleep schedule.

“For someone who doesn’t use stimulants on a regular basis, [they should] just be aware that the effects last for a lot longer than most people think,” Burkes said.

Kang said sleep becomes especially important for him around finals when it is crucial for the brain to be fully functioning.

“You can always derive an equation for math or figure something out if you’re thinking clearly,” said Kang. “If you’re not thinking clearly, … you’re more likely to mess things up, write things poorly, answer the [questions incorrectly] and make mistakes.”

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Sleeping the way to improved focus