There will be plenty of walking dead around Oklahoma State University’s campus over the next couple weeks.
It’s dead week, and with finals week up next, several students will not be getting the sleep they need to function properly — a condition known as sleep deprivation.
“Sleep deprivation is different for everyone,” said University Health Services health educator Kari Pratt. “But most simply put, it’s ongoing occurrences of lack of sleep. Not necessarily one night here and every once in a while, but continuous lack of sleep over an extended period of time.”
Sleep deprivation is a year-round experience for some college students, but it becomes extremely prevalent during dead week and finals week. This is the result of students staying up late cramming for their final exams.
“It’s very, very common,” Pratt said. “Typically, students think it’s more important to not sleep so they can have more time to study, but a lot of times what happens is they’ll get a lot of study time in, but it’s not quality study time.”
Ironically, depriving yourself of sleep may end up depriving you of the grade you stayed up for.
“When you don’t have a lot of sleep, you’re unable to think as clearly, your cognitive abilities are decreased, and so what ends up happening is you’re not as fresh and aware as you would be if you actually made time to get some rest,” Pratt said.
The effects of sleep deprivation are not only costly to one’s test scores, but also their body.
“Students push themselves extensively during dead week, but after so many nights and so many days of being sleep deprived, your body begins to physically shut down,” Pratt said. “They just don’t take good care of themselves emotionally or physically, so they end up being run down and being sick, so we (at University Health Services) see a definite increase of patients during finals week just because students start that marathon study session with lack of sleep typically during dead week.”
Student will try to conquer their urges to rest through the use of caffeine, which Pratt said doesn’t help at all.
“Don’t overdo the caffeine,” she said. “A lot people think, ‘If I just take enough caffeine, that’ll help,’ but again, you’re not getting quality study time in when your brain’s running on caffeine.”
At times, students will make the risky decision to use prescription drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin to stay awake, which is not the drugs’ intended purpose.
“With the increase we’re seeing in prescription drug abuse and students sharing their prescription drugs, specifically the ones that are utilized to help students stay awake and alert, (sleep deprivation) is becoming more and more common unfortunately,” Pratt said. “Everybody reacts very differently to prescription drugs, especially if you’ve never had that medication before. You don’t know how your body is going to react. Even with those who’ve had that medication before, it doesn’t mean their body is going to react the same every time.”
Pratt said she recommends that students who want to succeed on their finals begin by eating and sleeping well during dead week.
“Obviously, we know that there’s certain things that have to be pushed to the wayside during high-stress times for a college student,” she said. “But students need to eat as healthy as they can during dead and finals week. There are a lot of healthy options here on campus, so if students are stuck in the library or Student Union studying, there are definitely healthy options. I think students would be surprised how far a healthy meal can go as far as rejuvenating them not only physically, but mentally as well.
“They also need to make sure that, as much as they feel that they need to study, they get a good six-to-eight hours of sleep per night. They may not get as much study time in, but it will be better quality study time.”