COLUMN: Make sure you take the time to pace yourself this week, your body will thank you
Rome wasn't built in a day, as the saying goes, and your entire semester’s worth of knowledge can't be broken down into one night of studying.
This was one of the hardest lessons I learned my freshman year. I figured I would be able to do what I had always done in high school: pull an all-nighter. I would make time for my friends, my job, my pets, to play video games — anything except study. When it came down to the wire, I would be able to force myself to memorize a study guide or speed-read several chapters of a book. Then I could skate through the rest of the semester with high marks.
I thought it was simple. My friends and I used to laugh about how we had basically become immortal with the amount of caffeine in our bodies. My hands would shake and my heart would thump as I told myself: "This is normal. This is the right way to study."
As I get older, however, I don't see these late-night study sessions as points of pride.
I see them as spiteful stupidity. And the only person you're spiting? Yourself.
Your body cannot function on fumes. Boasting that you didn't eat anything all day to make more time for studying, or that you've only slept five hours in the last four days isn't something to be happy about. It's something that's actively harming your success.
A study published by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School in 2007 lists sleep as one of the most important factors for memory and retention.
"A sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently," the study reads. "Sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information."
By cutting down on your needed eight-hours a night, you're not letting your brain process the information you're cramming in at an alarming rate.
"When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive information," the study states. "Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information."
Food, too, plays a role in making sure you remember the difference between a parabola and a hyperbole. Livestrong, a nonprofit organization that provides support for people affected by cancer, recommends a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fish while studying to make sure you're hitting the needed number of healthy calories in your diet.
"Typical American diets contain too few nutrients and recommended foods and excessive amounts of added sugars, unhealthy fat and sodium, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans," the post reads. "Like the rest of your body, your brain requires appropriate nutrition to function properly. "
Don't force yourself into becoming a zombie this exam week. When your body and mind are healthy, it will reflect in your grades. Make sure you take a second to eat, some time to nap or even schedule an hour to go for a run this week.
Your body will thank you.
So will your GPA.