Why sleeping ‘well’ is misleading

Nick Kondyles

Head:  Why sleeping ‘well’ is misleading 

By: Nick Kondyles

The sleep schedule of the average GVSU student is not a pretty sight. Everyone has their tough weeks, of multiple papers piled on top of midterms. It’s no argument that we tend to sleep inconsistently. Sometimes a lot. Sometimes not enough.

On some nights of the week, we might be lucky enough to get 7 or maybe even 8 hours—on a Sunday, most likely—instead of the usual 4-6. Some of us who work the night shift might even choose to come home after class and sleep during the day. 

Then try adding work conflict to the mix. Then family troubles, employment concerns and financial strain. These are just a few of the many factors students may experience outside of schooling that disturbs the quality of the sleep we are getting while asleep.    

But all of these concern the quantity of the sleep: how long we are sleeping it. Some findings are saying that the number of hours matter little in comparison to the quality of the rest we are receiving while asleep. Remember that when you schedule your next 8 a.m.

A great number of college students take sleeping a ton as the key for better rest. But it looks like it might be the contrary. Historical case studies point to going to sleep reasonably early in the night as the key to quality of sleep, which is pretty much out of the question for most of us. These include figures such as Napolean going to bed around 7pm and waking up at 4am, ready, well rested and having gotten “quality” asleep, with the energy needed to conquer the known world. 

But if the answer were to just get to sleep early, each night, we would have figured that out by now, right?  Unless the answer lays more deeply in our brains. Perhaps we’re getting the number of hours recommended to us by doctors and yet still wake up exhausted. Some of us have learned to deal with this fact more than others. 

The general consensus seems to be that the college crowd is just too overburdened with activity—club obligations, sports, coupled by the force of a full course-load, grad school worries, et. cetera—for a lot of sleep to be attainable. Unless you’ve gotten a sleep study done, though, it’s you probably do not know the full reason as to why, after all your efforts, you are still tired.  

The circadian rhythm is what’s responsible for getting our body in synch with its natural production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. This is the chemical to blame if you’re not tired at 3 a.m., because your body has not produced enough of it for the day. Starting at age 20, the production of melatonin in general begins to steadily decline, making sleep (and yes, dreams) less intense. 

Did you ever notice that you can hardly remember your dreams now as opposed to the falling-off-a-cloud dreams you had as a kid? Well, this is partly the reason. By age 45, it’s projected that your body will be producing so little melatonin that you will have trouble falling asleep. That’s when melatonin supplements come in, I suppose. No amount of melatonin supplements, though, can change the fact that since we can remember, most of us have been set on the track of not only short bursts of too much and too little rest but a highly interrupted sleep schedule. This makes us prone to ‘low-quality’ of sleep.    

We cannot hope to fix our sleepiness by sleeping more. We’ve all been there before. The long nap after a big meal. Passing out onto our bed after a huge exam. We fall back asleep for just a while longer and wake up feeling even more lousy. It seems that at the most unexpected times, our body surprises us. It also seems that the key to quality sleep is not sleeping the right amount, per se, but sleeping at the right, opportune time. 

Research Facts: