Daylight savings can’t save us

I woke up Sunday morning with a start. A quick look at my alarm clock confirmed what I had feared—I had overslept. That ambitious plan of showing up at Stauffer as soon as the doors were thrown open to eager keeners such as myself was clearly thwarted.

A quick look at my computer, however, brought me out of my minor panic mode, as a little pop-up reminded me of an event which took place the night before.

No, the pop-up wasn’t a warning of embarrassing photos already posted and tagged. It was a kind little reminder that, hours previous, the clock had shifted from 2:00 a.m. to 1:01 a.m.

Thanks to Daylight Saving Time, I had beaten the clock. Despite oversleeping, I got up on time. Feeling triumphant, I headed off for a productive morning at Stauffer.

On a study break, I ran across the street to Tim Horton’s to pick up a much-needed caffeinated beverage (my third of the day), grabbing a copy of Sunday’s Toronto Star on my way out. Back at my cubicle, I check out the cover story: Is Sleep Obsolete?

The answer doesn’t even require a moment of thought: Yes.

Especially during the frantic few weeks known as mid-term season, sleep has become less and less of a priority, and more of a privilege.

Recognizing the importance of a good night’s sleep, I have spent the past couple weeks planning my snooze time carefully: I allowed myself five (sometimes six, if I was feeling lenient or particularly tired) hours of sleep a night, and not a minute more. I couldn’t afford to waste a precious minute of study, work and social time.

And with the decrease in sleeping time came an obvious increase in caffeine consumption. That one steaming mug of coffee that used to give me the perk I needed in the morning turned into multiple cups of coffee and tea, gulped on the go throughout the day.

According to Stanley Coren, head of the Human Neuropsychology and Perception Laboratory at the University of British Columbia, you lose one IQ point every day you sleep only seven hours, rather than the recommended eight. Penalties for less sleep are even worse: Coren says lose two IQ points for every hour short of seven. While sleep can apparently help rejuvenate the lost intelligence, it takes its toll.

Scary? Yeah. But is it scary enough to make me factor in a solid eight hours of sleep a night? Not quite.

As Coren said in the Star article: “You go without sleep and you’re the hard-hitting, jet-setter, prime-mover kind of character.” It seems there’s a never-ending list of things to do, whether obligations or opportunities. The less sleep you get, the more productive you are, right? The more caffeine, the more alert?

Well, no.

Not sleeping means your body doesn’t have time to ‘repair’ themselves overnight, making you increasingly drowsy throughout the day. Caffeine grants a quick jolt, only to bring you crashing down even lower.

The sad thing is: none of this is news to anyone.

With awareness of the importance of sleep rising, it’d be nice to look forward to a future of nights of nine-plus hours of sleep, of guilt-free siestas, and of a time when coffee was enjoyed, not inhaled.

I wish I could say that I’m taking note, that I’m going to adopt the “early to bed, early to rise” mantra.

But it’s nearing 2:30 a.m. as I write this, and being prepared for a midterm mere hours away takes precedence over the lifelong guarantee of riches and wisdom. Sleep, again, is put on hold and this time, no extra hour will miraculously appear to save me.

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