Timing Is Key for Restful Sleep

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Going to sleep at the same time every night might be just what you need to wake up on the right side of the bed in the morning.

Fatigue resulting from not enough or irregular sleep can cause short-term and long-term health problems, including impaired memory and weight gain, according to Bryce Mander, a postdoctoral fellow in UC Berkeley's psychology department.

Many college students do not sleep enough and also have problems with the "timing" of their sleep, Mander said in an e-mail.

"If you go to bed in the morning or the middle of the day, your sleep quality will be worse than if you slept at night," he said in the e-mail. "If you continually have an irregular wake time and bed time, your sleep quality will be worse than if you have a regular bedtime and wake time."

In daily tasks, fatigue can cause "errors of omission," which occur when the body fails to respond to external stimuli, and "errors of commission," which occur when the body responds inappropriately to external stimuli, Mander said.

Sleep loss can also make learning, memorizing and paying attention more difficult and impair outside-the-box thinking and decision-making, he said.

Jessica Li, a freshman who intends to major in political science and French, said she does not get enough sleep and that her sleep is sometimes irregular.

"By the end of the week I usually crash or take a nap in the middle of the day," she said.

According to Mander, additional short-term effects of fatigue include impaired glucose tolerance and blunted immune responses to vaccines.

"If you lose a night of sleep, you can generally recover by sleeping more over the next two nights," he said in the e-mail. "Where it really becomes a problem is when a person chronically restricts their sleep and gives themselves little or no time to recover from the sleep loss."

Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to metabolic changes that put one at risk for weight gain, Mander added.

But due to decreased cognitive abilities that come with chronic lack of sleep, fatigue can also increase one's likelihood of getting into car accidents or accidents involving heavy machinery, he added in the e-mail.

Elijah Guo, a junior theater and English major, said he tries not to prioritize sleep but would like to re-establish a normal sleeping schedule.

"I'm resilient now because I'm young, but it's not good for a long-term thing," he said.

Mander said that in the future we may be able to enhance sleep physiology to make sleep more efficient or to restore sleep in those with sleep problems, but we will never be able to create an alternative to sleep.

"You can't cheat biology," he said in the e-mail. "I don't foresee us ever creating anything that would replace sleep. It seems to be so integrated with almost every aspect of physiology in our bodies. It is hard to imagine how we could cut it out."

Tags: GRAD ISSUE 2010

Contact Cristian Macavei at [email protected]

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