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Early classes should go back to bed

How 8:30 classes are making you and your grades suffer

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Be honest: How many times this morning did you hit the snooze button, convincing yourself that if you just get three more minutes of sleep before you get ready, you’ll be ready to seize the day?

And then the alarm goes off. And you press the snooze button again.

As it turns out, your reluctance to get up is actually quite natural. Have you ever promised yourself that you were going to go to bed early, crawl under the covers, and get nice and cozy, only to have insomnia take over, leading to staring at your phone until the time you would’ve gone to bed anyway? The reason for this is your circadian rhythm, the physiological process which decides when you’re tired and when you’re wired. 

Beginning at puberty and lasting until your mid-20s, the circadian rhythm shifts about two to three hours later. That means that your body naturally wants to go to sleep between 10 p.m. and midnight and wake up seven to nine hours later, depending on the person. This is definitely not enough sleep to make that 8:30 a.m. class that you tried desperately to switch sections for, especially if you’re prone to staying up until 1, 2, 3 a.m. or later.

Think that you’re still doing well in that oh-so-early class, even though you’ve yawned five times in the past 15 minutes? 

As it turns out, sleep-deprived students are often unaware that they are performing worse at things. 

“Sleep-deprived participants performed significantly worse than the nondeprived participants on the cognitive task,” one study from the Journal of American College Health found. “However, the sleep-deprived participants rated their concentration and effort higher than the nondeprived participants did. In addition, the sleep-deprived participants rated their estimated performance significantly higher than the nondeprived participants did.” 

In other words, more effort for doing worse at something? Sounds like a lose-lose situation to me.

Also, sleep deficit or sleep debt is a very real thing. Someone who has gotten six hours of sleep per night for more than two weeks performs and feels the same as someone who hasn’t slept for 48 hours, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Ouch. Plus, it apparently takes four full nights of rest to recover from just one hour of lost sleep.

Naps can help, but they have to be taken properly; 20-minute power naps taken before 4 p.m. are ideal, or you run the risk of messing up your sleep schedule for the next few days. And you can’t just go comatose on the weekends in order to catch up since inconsistent sleep habits have been correlated with things like anxiety, weight gain, and depression — not good if you’re trying to keep on top of your classwork.

“But what about when I graduate,” you say? 

It’s true that most modern jobs, especially full-time office ones, expect employees to show up to work early, and 8:30 a.m. classes are often seen as preparing students for that reality. However, that argument misses a crucial point — your circadian rhythm shifts forward two or three hours, the same two or three hours it shifted forward during your adolescence and mid-20s. So an 8 or 9 a.m. start time for a job when you’re 25 won’t have the same effects as an 8:30 a.m. class now.

With spring quarter registration soon, may all of you have the fortune to avoid those dreaded 8:30 a.m. classes. And don’t hit the snooze button again. It’s not worth it, trust me.

Reach writer Anna Miller at  Twitter: @lesakuraciel

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(1) comment


Now imagine having to commute for over an hour only to be late because you can’t just park by that BS 8:30 class you have to park in a lot that is $4.00 an hour and takes 20 minutes to walk to from anywhere on campus. I stg UW uses these early start times to bleed the wallets of commuting students dry because we either have to pay for parking or pay off tickets we got trying to make it on time to class.

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