What would you say is the most important commodity to a college student? Alcohol? Men’s basketball tickets? Maybe a pizza from Blaze? Those things are all super important, but as we roll into midterm season, the only thing that students desire more than anything else is sleep. I’m sure there are a few freshmen readers scoffing at the idea that sleep is what you need. You’ve probably pulled an all-nighter before. One afternoon’s rest after that all-nighter and you’re totally fine. Right? As I say in almost every single column, I’ve been around here a long time. Those four years have shown me that sleep really is the most important thing.
Before getting into the whole message thing, I want to tell you a story. It was midway through February 2015, and Amar Batra was a little sophomore. I thought it was a great idea to enroll in my classes in such a way that they were fairly bunched together in the middle of the day, almost every day. In my head it seemed like a great plan. The structure would allow me to sleep in, but would also allow me to get out early enough in the afternoons to do something. This didn’t matter much Monday through Thursday, but come Friday I was ready to go hit the town, if you know what I mean.
Anyway, the semester started out fine. Classes were going well and I was enjoying having a decent amount of time off. All of that changed when midterms rolled into town. Of course, I thought everything would be fine. I figured I would just cram a little bit the night before the exam and everything would work itself out. It’s what I had done in the past, so why wouldn’t it work this time around?
It was then that I discovered the problem with having classes squeezed together: I would get through the first class fine, but by the end of the day I was wiped. Like really wiped.
But it was exam season.
So instead of resting up immediately and bouncing back, I had to go back to studying (read, cramming) instead, and the next day I was once again wiped. Everyone who has survived at least one semester knows that once exams start, they never really stop.
After you get through your exams you’ll have to start the rounds all over again. Or, your professor will issue a project once again creating so much work for you. It becomes a vicious cycle that never pauses to let you catch your breath. My once great schedule had now become my enemy.
The moral of this story is not that you should better plan-out your class schedule, although planning a schedule that allows for free time is very helpful. The best created schedule can still be a nightmare to work through if you lack the proper resources.
And, as I said before, the most important resource out there is sleep. Hopefully my advice will allow you to actually get some this midterm season.
I mentioned that the worst part about midterms was that you always had things going on, so it felt like there was no time for sleep. After that crazy semester I realized that whether or not you have time for sleep is irrelevant. At the end of the day, you have to make time for sleep.
See, sleep doesn’t just allow us to rest our eyes and relax at the end of a long day. Sleep allows us to stay focused. Thinking and working hard mentally have the same side-effects as working out physically. At a certain point your brain is going to say, “Enough, I can’t learn anymore under these conditions!”
Sleep allows your body to fix itself. Then, when you start working again, you are ready to learn and cram for that exam.
So how do you make time for sleep? I’ve found that some sleep is better than no sleep at all; that’s one part of the equation.
The other part is to just know yourself. If you’re cramming for an exam the night before, either cram till the early hours and pass out when your brain says it can’t take any more or go to bed early (I’m talking 10 p.m. early). Then wake up at 6 a.m. and finish studying before your exam.
The other thing that really helps is an afternoon nap. If you don’t have time to go back to your dorm, then feel free to pass out in the library or in the Union. There is no shame in doing that, and there are super comfy chairs in both places.
At the end of the day you need sleep and good grades to survive college. Hopefully this advice will help you get both.