All Posts Tagged With: "sleep"
The link between health and well-being and cellphone use
Madison Potter has a routine before bedtime. After she brushes her teeth and puts on her pyjamas, she’ll plug in her iPhone and put it right next to her pillow. Then she’ll turn off the lights and fall asleep with the phone six inches from her head. “It’s just habit now,” says the 20-year-old fine arts student at the Alberta College of Art and Design. “I’ve been doing it for four years.”
The vibration from incoming texts will occasionally wake her up, but her cellphone is there as an alarm clock. Also “in case there’s an important message in the middle of the night,” she says, “which is completely silly because there never has been.”
She’s not the only one snuggling up to her screen. Curt Wetmore, a 25-year-old grad student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, keeps his cell under his pillow because his small bedroom doesn’t allow for a bedside table and the outlet to recharge the battery is right by the head of the bed. “It’s more convenient, and maybe a little comforting to know that I have my phone by me,” he says. “I don’t why, but I definitely feel comfort for sure—which is sad.”
Brain chemicals to be scrutinized
Researchers at the University of Toronto say a new study on sleep patterns in seals could help explain what allows humans to get some shut-eye.
Researchers teamed up with biologists at UCLA and found that seals are able to both sleep and stay awake at the same time.
They say one half of a seal’s brain shuts down when they sleep in water while the other remains awake and on the lookout for possible danger.
The study authors say the findings may help guide research into the factors that control human sleep.
Studying a brain with both a sleeping and wakeful side can give scientists clues as to which chemicals are more heavily involved in the sleep cycle.
Early research suggests, for instance, that serotonin may play a less important role than scientists believed.
Women banned, Niki Minaj, “oversharing” and Jack Layton
1. Iran has banned women, who make up 60 per cent of its university students, from 77 subjects including accounting, engineering and pure chemistry. At the University of Tehran, forestry and mathematics are off limits too. Last year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad considered segregating men and women entirely on campuses. Could this new ban be punishment for all the women who protested his apparent election fraud in 2009?
2. An Oklahoma high school valedictorian was denied her diploma because she said the word “hell” during her commencement speech and then refused to apologize. Kaitlin Nootbaar quoted a commencement speech from the Twilight series film Eclipse. “I quoted, ‘They ask us now what we want be and we say who the hell knows,’” she told The Toronto Star. She meant to say “heck.”
Including some tips you’ve never heard
7. Pet a puppy
Pets reduce stress and there may be a furry friend closer than you think. Therapeutic Paws of Canada brings therapy dogs to stressed out students at the University of Ottawa and McGill. BC Pets and Friends comes to the rescue of students at the University of British Columbia.
6. Don’t worry about getting it all done
Chances are good that you won’t have time to catch up on all those textbook chapters. If it looks like you’re going to run out of time, it’s often best to focus on what’s in the lecture notes and the lab reports. The textbook may be the last thing your professor has in mind when designing the test.
How your still-developing brain puts you at risk
From the 21st Maclean’s University Rankings—on sale now.
Heading off to university is a time-worn rite of passage, one that marks the transition from teen years to adulthood. Despite the new relationships, responsibilities and independence that come with leaving home, however, in our late teens and early twenties, we’re still not fully mature. Our brains keep developing well into these years.
When puberty hits, brain regions responsible for reward and pleasure kick into high gear, according to Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg, author of You and Your Adolescent. But other regions, involved in decision-making and impulse control, are slower to develop—and don’t mature until our mid-twenties. “The accelerator is activated before there’s a good braking system in place,” he says. Teens in mid-to-late adolescence are prone to risky decisions, seeking rewards without weighing the consequences. Starting a new life on campus, these brain changes affect students’ lives in all sorts of ways—maybe pushing them to stay out drinking all night, sign up for a semester abroad in Europe, sleep right through class, or ask their crush out on a date.
The reason? Late risers are big drinkers
University sudents who start classes earlier in the morning sleep more — not less — than those who start classes later in the day, says a new study of 253 American students. The reason is that those without morning classes are more likely to stay out drinking on school nights, which leads to a lower quantity of sleep overall, according to study co-author Pamela Thacher, a psychologist from St. Lawrence University in New York State. Night owls also reported lower grade averages than their early rising peers. The study also found that the average amount of sleep students report getting each day is 8.0 hours — exactly what experts recommend.
Should schools encourage students to sleep during the day?
Students are often accused of sleeping too much, so it may seem ironic that the University of California Davis has spent the past four years encouraging them to take more naps. The campaign has included social media advertising, plus the handing out of “nap kits” that include earplugs, an eye mask and a tip card, at a cost $2.75 each. The justification is that studies have shown that productivity and focus improves when people supplement a normal seven to nine hour sleep with 20 to 30 minute-long nap in the morning between 10 and 11 or in the afternoon between two and four.
At the annual meeting of the American College Health Association on Thursday, UC Davis health educators Amelia Goodfellow and Jason B. Spitzer presented some interesting research about how students on their campus are napping after four years of encouragement. If anything, their campaign has worked too well. Two-thirds of students on campus say they take naps. That would be great news, except that three-quarters of them nap for more than 30 minutes a time. That, say the researchers, is unhealthy.
Has your school encouraged you to nap? If so, tell us about it in the comments section.
Starting school an hour later sounds crazy but it might help students perform in the classroom
“The difference is like night and day.” So, perhaps with tongue slightly in cheek, says retired principal Wayne Erdman of Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute’s experiment in late high school start times. Eastern Commerce C.I., located just off Danforth Avenue east of Toronto’s Greektown, is in the middle of its second year of starting classes at 10 a.m. That’s a shockingly late hour by contemporary North American standards, and some traditionalists will never learn to like the idea. The working world that Eastern’s students are about to enter, they say, doesn’t compromise with late sleepers; it fires them. The sooner the kids learn the harsh truth, the better.
But Erdman tells the Toronto Star that the late-start concept, though not yet subject to its first full scientific analysis, looks like a hit when it comes to educational outcomes—and parents and students seem to agree. Local trustee Cathy Dandy is an aggressive advocate of research showing that there are good reasons to give adolescents a break that neither children nor adults may need; if she had gotten her way, Eastern classes would be starting as late as 11:30 a.m.
That sounds crazy, but it might be less crazy than the old way of doing things. It is starting to look as though a forward shift in sleep patterns is a natural accompaniment to sexual maturation—not just in humans, but in mammals generally; rats and monkeys, it seems, engage in their own version of what parents witness in their recalcitrant 16-year-olds. Teenagers have an ability to stay up late and sleep in that a 2004 Dutch-German study characterized as “unsaturable,” and even proposed it as a defining feature of adolescence. You’re officially an adult when you can’t stay up all night anymore.
This appears to be a feature rooted in biology, not just social arrangements. It has been confirmed in studies using “actigraphs”—wristwatch-like devices that measure tossing and turning in bed—and the sampling of melatonin, the hormone that serves as the mammalian body’s clock. Practical research into school start times, meanwhile, suggests that teenage behaviour and attitudes can worsen when the day begins earlier, and improve when it kicks off later. Academic impacts are harder to confirm, but in 2009, a study of 3,000 Houston children aged 11 to 17 found that students getting less than six hours of sleep a night were twice as likely to report poor grades upon follow-up a year later. And the benefits of late starting, if they exist, will not be confined to the classroom and the home. In a 2008 study conducted in Fayette County, Ky., a one-hour forward shift in the start times at public schools was associated with longer reported hours of sleep—and a 17 per cent reduction in accident rates among teen drivers, during a period when rates for all other drivers increased eight per cent.
Innate skepticism of research claims like these is always warranted, and educational research, in particular, is notorious for half-hearted compliance with good scientific practices. What stands out in the late-start issue, though, is that many lines of evidence—biological, pedagogical, social—appear to be pointing in the same direction. The general phenomenon of sleep is still poorly understood, but it seems clear that treating teenagers as if they were adults cannot be appropriate.
Still, the traditionalists might have a point. School is not just about trowelling the maximum volume of information into the heads of children. It’s also about encouraging good habits, about teaching responsibility and productivity. The verdict will not truly be in on the Eastern Commerce C.I. experiment until several cohorts of its students have entered post-secondary education or the workforce, and their outcomes in those settings have been checked.
But in the meantime, God be praised, a little more diversity is being introduced into an education system that badly needs it. The homogenizing factory model that our schools have followed for the last century isn’t even all that popular in factories anymore. Eastern Commerce’s unusual school day may be bad or good in itself, but most likely it’s very good for some particular students who, biologically, just aren’t early-morning people. And let’s face it: most of the graduates of Eastern won’t be entering a simple world of classic nine-to-five work governed by a steam whistle. Even if they wanted single-career lives, punching the same clock every day for the same company for 40 years, they would have a hell of a time finding them. It’s one thing to emphasize enduring traditional values; it’s quite another to insist on obsolete ones.
From the editors
Warning: pulling an all-nighter may cause Social Moronitis
I had a little over two weeks to write the final lab report for my biochemistry course. It was the kind of assignment that seems relatively simple at first glance when you read over the outline. Meaning, the kind that’s tempting to leave on my desk for two weeks and finish at the last minute.
But the day before it was due, I realized the lab report had been hibernating in a cocoon on the corner of my desk and undergone a metamorphosis. Suddenly it included a bazillion graphs, charts, tables, figures, and in-depth analysis questions.
I stayed up the whole night and managed to finish the lab report on time, but there was a trade off: I had to spend every single last brain cell. For the next 24 hours, I was infected with Social Moronitis.
I spoke too loudly. I couldn’t hear so well. And I began to uncontrollably breathe through my mouth, exhaling too deeply. I lost the ability to make eye contact- instead, I had a weird, wandering soft focus.
As the day went on, I started to develop an annoying laugh. A couple hours later, I started giving people detailed descriptions of my dreams. I developed a sinus condition. And then I became convinced that people wanted to hear about it.
The road to recovery isn’t an easy path. I’m still re-mastering the whole “default-facial-expression-that-doesn’t-involve-my-jaw-hanging-wide-open” thing.
But I think I now understand why some people don’t have a sense of body space. They probably stayed up all night working on a lab report, and became infected with Social Moronitis. They can’t read facial cues from a normal distance, so they have to stand within three inches of someone’s face to tell if they’re happy, annoyed, or on the verge of beating the crap out of the person who’s now invading their body space.
Experts tell us what causes sleep deprivation, and what you can do about it
Bedtime rituals at home for 19-year-old Maddy Crawford include cookies and milk and propping the bedroom door open before she climbs into the double bed in a room she has to herself.
Crawford likes her sleep and goes to bed at a reasonable hour. But all that is set to change this fall when she moves into a shared dorm room at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.
“It will be weird living with someone and not having everything just – there,” says Crawford, who plans to take earplugs when she leaves her Peterborough, Ont., home for school.
Adapting to life at university – and particularly to residence, with a roommate in close proximity and noisy neighbours – could put her regular sleep pattern out of whack. And experts say that can lead to students racking up a sleep deficit that keeps them from functioning well, both physically and mentally.
With little sleep and lots of stress, students are vulnerable to irritability and depression, says Colin Shapiro, director of the Youthdale Child and Adolescent Sleep Centre in Toronto. Existing conditions such as diabetes, chronic fatigue and asthma can also worsen with sleep deprivation.
For a list of dorm-room sleeping tips, click here.
He says a lot of memory consolidation occurs during sleep, and having too little can impair cognitive performance at the very time students are being stretched academically.
“Most people have the odd notion that just because they’re a human being, they are born to be capable of sleeping well,” says Shapiro, but that’s not always the case.
The good news is that in itself, the move to a dorm usually creates only temporary sleep difficulties. Most people find it hard to sleep in a new environment – whether a hotel room or an army barrack – but the problem usually doesn’t persist more than a few days, he says.
Only those students who are particularly sensitive to noise and other distractions will have long-term trouble sharing a dorm room.
Be extra nice to your TAs, ditch the bulky bag and choose neighbours wisely
If I could travel back in time to my pre-university days, way back in August, there are so many secrets I would share with myself. Like, “Physics 111 final exam: don’t bother studying rocket propulsion.” But if I could only tell myself 10 things . . .
(1) University is nothing to be afraid of: My last month of summer vacation was spent worrying. Worrying that university courses would be impossibly difficult, worrying that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the readings, worrying that I’d fail miserably and have to drop out. What I didn’t know is that in university, you’re given every opportunity to succeed. All of my science courses have an online component, constantly updated with recommended readings, practice questions, and sample mid-terms. My religious studies course has a one-minute summary every week, giving students a chance to ask questions or make comments or suggestions.
(2) TAs—the unknown variable: Before my first semester, I didn’t know what a huge impact TAs—teaching assistants—can have. Turns out they aren’t just disposable crew members. In addition to leading tutorials (which in some courses count for a large part of your mark), TAs often mark essays, tests, assignments and exams. So even after you’ve checked out ratemyprofessors.com and gathered all the other intel on a prof, there’s still
a huge unknown: TAs.
(3) Sleep matters: There were 400 students in the class. The lecture hall was warm. The lights were dimmed. My chemistry prof’s British accent was practically a lullaby. Even if I hadn’t been up past three in the morning, I’d probably still have fallen into a coma. Eyes closed, with a puddle of drool forming on your notebook, doesn’t exactly help you get the most out of a lecture.
(4) Get to class early . . . : My biggest class in high school had 30 students. My smallest class in university has 200. Yes, the lecture hall has more than enough seats. But get there after the first five minutes and you lose the luxury of a right-handed fold-out table.
(5) . . . and sit in the front row: I’m usually somewhere in the front rows, where students eagerly record every professorial utterance, colour-coding notes on the spot. But one day I arrived late, and found myself among the inhabitants of the Back of the Lecture Hall. The Tetris players and text messengers aren’t much of a disruption. But being surrounded by half-whispered conversations means you’re trying to follow the professor’s lecture, while simultaneously listening to the guy two seats over who is going on about how he totally, like totally, hasn’t even opened the textbook yet. And someone in the next row is eating a sandwich that smells like armpit.
I was sitting in the middle of a chemistry lecture the first time it happened. One moment I was copying notes from the projector, the next I was suddenly staring at my sleeve. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that 15 minutes of class had vanished, and instead of writing notes about [...]
I was sitting in the middle of a chemistry lecture the first time it happened. One moment I was copying notes from the projector, the next I was suddenly staring at my sleeve. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that 15 minutes of class had vanished, and instead of writing notes about electron orbitals, I had been drooling into my armrest.
In university I’m in a constant state of tiredness.
By the time I was sitting in anthropology, my final class on Friday, I was thinking in slow motion. I registered the fact that the professor’s lips were moving. And that, judging by the way everyone else was scribbling into their notebooks, what he was saying was probably important. But lifting my pen required too much coordination. In fact, keeping my eyelids open took too much concentration. When reading over my biology notes on the bus ride home, I blinked- and suddenly my notebook was on the floor.
I’m looking forward to my weekend coma.