Monday, September 5, 2011

Wake Up and Smell The Decaf Chai

"Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." It's a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, by far one of my favorite historical figures. The man was one of this country's founding fathers, lived, served, and died in my home-state of Pennsylvania, and is responsible for everything from bifocals, to the volunteer fire department, to the free library. Oh, and electricity was important, too.

Illustration: Michelle Lana

What the inventor, statesman, and scientist failed to account for, however, was that his "Academy and College of Philadelphia" (later the University of Pennsylvania) would become a place where his advice regarding sleep scheduling would one day fall upon deaf ears. In fact, the modern college student at any American university is likely to have little faith in the proverb. A more contemporary slogan would read:

"Later to bed and slow to awaken
highlights the number of courses you're takin'"

But try and think of it this way: In high school, we all complained about how early school started. Waking up at 6-something AM isn't anyone's idea of a good time. Despite research indicating that later school start times could improve student performance, the districts, in an effort to maintain after-school activity and sports schedules, continue to bus out the high-schoolers before the sun is up (and, depending on what we had later in the day, back after the sun went down!).

In college, however, we have an opportunity. My earliest course this semester begins at 10:30 AM. Even if I went to bed at the less-than-reasonable hour of, say, 2:00 AM, I might be able to get 8 hours of sleep and still make the class. My advice to all students, then, is this: get 8 hours. It doesn't matter what time you go to sleep, you just have to get 8 (getting too much more is actually as bad as getting too much less!). And you have to do it on the weekends, too; as my senior English teacher told us in high school, your sleep from the night before last night influences the value of your sleep last night.

For those of you running on 4.5 hours and as many cups of coffee, I challenge you to just try this method. You may think you're giving up precious waking hours, but you'll find that the hours you spend awake will be more productive, more engaging, and more useful than ever before. It's better to have 16 amazing hours a day than 19 cycles of caffeine-induced energy and crashes.

A cup a day keeps the sanity away.

Another thing: lay off the caffeine. Your body knows when it needs to shut down and repair; if you push it past that limit, it's like driving a car on empty: you're only going to get so far before you stop dead in the middle of a busy intersection, with midterms and deadlines whooshing past.

Remember when your grandparents would say, "Smoking? Oh, we didn't know it was bad for us back then!" That's what you're going to be telling your kids about coffee. Only, you'll be lying.

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