Over the course of one’s education, it’s a fair expectation that your sleep schedule is going to take a hit. Whether the cause is your intermittent desire to experience the night life, your apparent need to work two jobs while taking 21 units so you can attempt to pay for college or the age-old myth of “studying” while playing League of Legends, it’s widely understood that rest is sacrificed for the greater good. But when your brutally honest friend tells you that you’ve put on weight recently, you may not be quite so quick to correlate the two phenomena. However Cal researchers, led by neuroscience professor Matthew Walker, certainly are.
One doesn’t have to be a psychologist to understand that the brain works better when it has energy, which is primarily fueled by sleep. It may be one of the few redeeming features of the dining halls, but the all-you-can-eat facet certainly comes in handy when you walk in for breakfast with a rather large headache and an even larger appetite. However, it does sound better when a psychology professor explains that the brain’s regions react differently when “five more minutes” is your default response to your alarm ring. The complex areas that are primarily reserved for decision-making and passing judgment tend to suffer in performance. Since you can’t rationally decide or motivate yourself to eat healthier food or a smaller amount of unhealthy food, the primal instincts kick in. While these don’t constitute growling in tiger-like fashion or diving into your meal face first, they certainly do include heightened levels of desire for reward. Which probably explains why you’re sinking your teeth into that stack of pancakes drenched in maple syrup at this very moment.
Unless you’ve adopted Wiz Khalifa’s anthem “No Sleep” as your personal life ambition, there is a solution. Barring the use of a butler or a shock collar that would avail the carrot and stick methods respectively, the simplest road involves you getting more sleep. Easier said than done … well, not really. Even though those late-night excursions to parties only really kick in as the hour progresses, you can tell yourself that putting on those extra pounds is probably not worth getting rejected by that really attractive person who you’ve been glancing at for the last hour. And if you call reading the same sentence over and over while floating in and out of consciousness “studying,” then it’s probably a good indication that you need to catch some Z’s regardless.
Even if you do happen to stay up or out late, make sure the RSF is part of your plans. Alternatively, grab some cereal in the morning as opposed to a doughnut – and preferably not a cereal where you can see the sugar pouring off the flake. We can easily recognize that making these choices – including the one where the marijuana-aficionado suddenly became our role model – isn’t necessarily for the best, yet we simply can’t stop ourselves from committing them.
In all, it’s a test of your discipline, one of the many challenges that comes with being a student, and one that gives credence to the unfortunate epidemic of Freshman 15. And if nothing else, it somewhat validates those rather ludicrous, “Would you eat 6 cheeseburgers at once?” ads at Crossroads.
Image source: Ian Murchison under Creative Commons
Contact Uday at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @mehtakid