The Art of Waking Up

By Patricio Flores, Roxana Margelu, and Leilani Quintero
NOV 16, 2020

The average human spends approximately one-third of their life sleeping, or a little under 30 years. Presumably, sleep plays an important role in our health, but have you ever thought about how sleep can affect how you do in school and your academic success overall?  It’s no secret that if you get barely any sleep, you’ll be tired throughout the day, but how can sleep affect our brains to improve our learning capacity?

According to Harvard Health Professor Harvey B. Simon, even simple things like naps can boost the way you receive information. Studies conducted by Simon have shown that a simple 30-minute nap can improve the way your brain organizes and arranges new information. Micro naps can be beneficial for those who cannot find the time to schedule a full 30-minute snooze. Studies have shown that even a short 45-second snooze can help students remember lists of words they had previously tried to memorize.

Regardless of the benefits of napping, the human body prefers longer sleep. When you sleep for longer than an hour, the body enters REM state. During this state the brain is at its most active, more so than when we are awake. This REM state is also when dreaming occurs. Both are very important, as the brain takes time during longer sleep periods to organize and process information better than during naps. Dreaming can also help boost this process, according to Harvard Health. REM sleep is also responsible for making us feel rejuvenated and refreshed in the morning. If you have longer sleep, you have a longer REM, thus you feel more replenished when waking up in the morning.   

Two Saint Thomas Aquinas students were interviewed on their contrasting sleep schedules and its effects on an average school day. Jade Wagner, an Honors and AP student, who gets 7 hours of sleep at night, says, “I wake up at 6:30 and don’t have difficulty waking up.” She was also asked whether or not she takes naps after school and her answer was a firm “no.” Contrasting Wagner’s wakeful attitude, Javier Vinuela, an Honors student who gets about 4 hours of sleep a night, says that he is occasionally drowsy during the school day and takes mini-naps in between 10-minute periods and lunch. Vinuela says, “It depends. Sometimes I wake up and I’m fine, but other times it takes a lot of effort. I get drowsy in between periods, when we’re not doing anything because my attention isn’t on anything.” In spite of their different approaches to sleep patterns, both students are successful in their academics and continue to be model students for Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Feature image courtesy of Pixabay.