Between sleep, friends and grades in college, you pick two. It’s a choice that’s infinitely less satisfying than Panera Bread’s You-Pick-Two menu option, and students in college typically opt for the latter: friends and grades. Sleep, like the ugly Jonas Brother, is cast to the wayside of public opinion.
So how do you balance the paradoxical sleep/friends/grades trifecta? The key, as most college students agree, is to artificially hedge on sleep. Whether it’s pounding coffee, Red Bull or Adderall, strategies abound to eliminate the need for Zs.
Some students prefer to stay up as long as possible, finish a week’s worth of work and then sleep for two days straight.
Others have tried the ‘ol “Uberman Sleep Cycle,” a schedule where one does not sleep at all except for eight 20-minute naps spaced evenly over a 24-hour period. This schedule greatly expands the amount of time in the day, perfect for those looking to maximize their productivity…or, in reality, the amount of time one can spend scrolling aimlessly down the Facebook news feed, half-reading articles and tagging friends in pointless memes and hilarious cat videos. As for me, my personal favorite sleep strategy is the “slingshot nap,” where one chugs a cup of coffee, then falls asleep and wakes up 20 minutes later completely boosted, sweaty and ready for class.
“I’m not a morning person” is an oft-touted justification for those of us (myself included) who don’t have the parental discipline of going to bed at 9:30 p.m. In high school, many of us started on our homework around 6 p.m. after practices or after-school activities, exactly 5 hours earlier than when we begin thinking about starting our homework in college.
“I’m not a morning person” really translates to “I had to watch the season 3 premiere of ‘Rick and Morty’ last night” or “I couldn’t focus until my friends and I made a Taco Bell run.”
Yet some of the world’s most successful CEOs claim that they are most productive early in the morning. Tim Cook, Sallie Krawcheck and Richard Branson are all advocates of starting the day at the ungodly hour of 3 a.m. I mean “ungodly” literally; the 3 a.m. hour is also known as the ‘witching hour,’ where it’s believed that creatures such as witches, demons and ghosts are thought to appear and to be at their most powerful.
Anyone trying to start an early-morning hiking club to the haunted cemetery south of Newcomer? Legend has it that if you say “Bloody Larry” three times, retired botany professor Larry Yoder will appear and give you a lesson on evolutionary leaf morphology. Pretty cool.
Though the reason why we sleep is still unknown, its absence is something of which we are painfully aware of. I’m one of those people that needs at least eight hours of undisturbed, noiseless beauty slumber in order to function the next day. In order to be at the top of my game, I need to sleep like a rock. Or a log. Or a (insert sedentary inanimate forest object here).
But definitely not like a baby. “Sleep like a baby?” What kind of sick, twisted humor was that idiom born out of? “Sleep like a baby?” Babies don’t sleep well. They’re just ugly little racket-raising interruption machines that destroy any hope of an eight-hour undisturbed, noiseless beauty slumber.
The horror stories that I hear from young couples less than a decade older than me confirm that babies are the number one threat to nightlife everywhere, except maybe the RA staff.
Finding a balance in college is hard. Although I don’t recommend you make use of every strategy listed above, I do think it’s important to take the time to examine what you value.
The paradoxical sleep/friends/grades trifecta is only paradoxical to the extent you value each term. If you value each equally, then yes, finding a balance is difficult – stressful even. But if you remind yourself of what matters in the long run, like relationships and a good education, sleep does become less salient.
Take it from a graduating senior: make the most of your time here at Goshen. You can sleep when you’re dead!