Sleep, Eat, Revise, Repeat


Here at the ReferenceME office we love sleep, but all too often it seems like you can never get enough. As we’ve been working hard to perfect ReferenceME for you and spread the referencing revolution, our sleep has suffered. Sleep is a vital part of life, especially for students. Sometimes it eludes us, and sometimes we elude it, but whatever the reason sleep is essential to successful university work.

While many students love sleep and can’t get enough of late morning lie ins, sleep often seems to get in the way, especially near exam time and just before essay deadlines, which have been inevitably left until the last minute. However dull it seems, getting a good night’s sleep could help with your concentration, retention of facts and help keep you healthy and happy.

Sleep experts suggest adults should have between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, but they say teenagers and young adults need at least eight and half to nine and half hours of sleep a night. Their body clock also keeps them awake later in the evening, meaning they want to wake up later in the morning. This compounded with the all too early starts of school and university means through no fault of your own you may be too sleepy to learn due to sleep deprivation. One online source even goes as far as to say that half of all teenagers may be sleep deprived.

REM sleep is what you really need and it starts 90 minutes after you fall asleep, and reoccurs in bursts totalling about two hours a night. REM stands for rapid eye movement because during this phase of sleep the eyes move quickly behind the eyelid. During REM sleep short term memory from your day’s activities and revision is transferred into long term memory. Meaning it is actually more productive to get a good night sleep before an exam, than stay up all night revising, as your brain will be unable to retain the information effectively.

Lack of sleep is similar to being drunk. A study showed that after 17 hours without sleep, people perform similarly on performance tests to if they had a 0.05% blood alcohol level. (So be careful about driving home after an all-night essay writing cram in the library.) Even after five nights of partial sleep deprivation, three drinks will have the same effect on your body as six would when you’ve slept enough. This may seem like a great way to get drunker quicker, but if you skip sleep or continually don’t get enough you will develop sleep debt which like overdrafts and credit card debt, is difficult to pay back. Sleep deprivation has been linked with obesity, type two diabetes, heart disease, negative mood swings and decreased productivity and awareness; which are not worth risking for 2am Breaking Bad marathon.

However your sleep may not need to be all in one 8 hour chunk. There is evidence that until the 17th century people used to sleep in two segments, separated by an hour or two when they would be awake in the night. Max at the ReferenceME office has tried sleeping in only 20 minute intervals throughout that day, called polyphasic sleeping. There are various options but Max has adhered to the German named Uberman sleeping pattern which consists of six 20 minute naps every four hours (which Max takes in the corner of the office), to create optimum waking time and alertness. However critics of this theory have suggested it goes against the body’s natural sleep rhythm and will leave followers with similar side effects to sleep deprivation. It is also difficult to fit into modern life, which is what our Max has found, and it is believed that one of the regimes early advocates, the fabulously named Buckminster Fuller, had to stop experimenting with intermittent sleep because of his wife’s objections. Although occasional napping can be a great boost and leave you feeling refreshed, but it shouldn’t exceed twenty to thirty minutes, otherwise you will feel drowsy.

It seems that however you take your sleep it needs to add up to at least eight hours a day, or it could start to affect your health and your university work. But sleeping can also help you to remember your revision and work better. So if your parents nag you for sleeping too much over the Christmas hols, you can legitimately tell them it’s helping you to revise.

Written by Sarah Dickinson @sarahdick91 (Community Manager at ReferenceME)

Illustration by Emma Jackson @emmajacksonillo

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