Tagged: sleep

Science Tuesday: The science of sleep

By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
@sanahfaroke

If only we could learn in our sleep.../  PHOTO VIA Flickr user Mrehan

If only we could learn in our sleep…/ PHOTO VIA Flickr user Mrehan

Behold! We have entered the ‘week of death,’ i.e. the week before finals week. We’ve entered the dome of late night strategy sessions, unhealthy food choices, and nocturnal raccoon eyes covered over with concealer. Wait, is that just me?

Well, Katniss and I might be BFFs because I feel like I’ve been chosen to participate in the ‘Hunger Games.’ It’s a battle to the death, but really, we’re all just creating this battle with our internal biological clock.

I’ve always been a night owl. I think better and produce higher-quality work at night. However, I’m a miserable troll in the morning when I have to wake up at 8 a.m. for class. I’m such a rebel, defying this clock, but by disrupting these neurons that tell me what to do and when to do it, it puts everything else out of wack.

The neurons in the brain are no bigger than the size of a mustard seed, according to The Atlantic. The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) tells me when I should have breakfast or go to sleep, as well as determining functions like social and sexual behaviors. It’s what makes me a night owl and what makes normal people, well, normal.

According to Seth Blackshaw, an associate professor of neuroscience at John Hopkins University, these characteristics can be genetic, and in a sense, predetermined. In a new study conducted by Blackshaw, SCN deteriorates as you age.

When I was a kid, I hated naps. I’d tell my mom that “day is for play and night is for sleep.” Clearly as a college student, that has changed drastically, but one thing is the same: I fight sleep. Back then, I wouldn’t take naps, and now, I drink coffee instead of giving in. Nevertheless, according to Blackshaw, being awake when our body is obviously tired is bad for you.

For those who pull all-nighters — you deserve a medal. I don’t know how you guys do it, but you do. You better save that medal though because some studies show that you have a higher chance of getting cancer or having a heart attack. So is the medal and a crappy paper worth your health? Probably not, but you’re setting yourself up for it if you stray from the SCN master clock.

In Blackshaw’s study, researchers removed a key gene in mice that helps the SCN communicate with other cells, because SCN communicates with cells in the entire body. He found that instead of the mice operating as if their Monday was a normal 24-hour schedule, they worked as if they have two or three body clocks controlling them at the same time (which kind of feels like my average Monday anyway).

Blackshaw concluded that the clock was still running, but it wasn’t synchronized. It’s why some people are like the living dead during the day, but at night are little miss peppy. I actually live in constant pep, but that’s just because I drink too much coffee, not because I sleep enough. I should probably attempt to do better. I’ll pencil it in … after graduation.

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Science Tuesday: Pulling all-nighters doesn’t help you cram

By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
@sanahfaroke

When I took my core classes at the beginning of my college career, I pulled all nighters studying for my exams for days at a time. I made immense study guides, until my TA told me that my 32-page guide was equivalent to a grad student’s. My memorization isn’t the best (remember my issue with the Memory Game?) and I didn’t do too hot on my exams.

Turns out, according to a series of recent studies, like one presented at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society earlier this week, lack of sleep is detrimental to remembering things like test answers and where you put your keys.

Sleep, according to the study, not only helps us remember what we did in the past, but also reminds us of what we want to do in the future. Susanne Diekelmann of the University of Tübingen and her colleagues found that there are two ways to remember our intentions. One can be if we internally recite what we want to do, like repeating that “Parenthood” is airing tonight and you need to watch it, or you can store your intentions in the memory network. If it’s stored well enough, then you won’t have to internally remind yourself that your show is coming on later that day.

Diekelmann and her researchers made these discoveries through word pairing: half of the participants were told that they’d have to remember material later and then were either instructed to sleep for two full nights or were kept awake one night and were allowed to sleep the second night. Diekelmann found that the subjects who slept both nights performed better on the test.

I’ve always claimed to be a night owl, because it’s true — I work better at night. But it’s also true that when I don’t get enough rest, I bomb my exams. No amount of coffee could help me there (and trust, me, I’ve tried). So take a break, study with enough time, and make sure you get a good night’s rest. You’re going to need it!