The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Sleepless students combat adverse effects of caffeine

By Tabitha Redder/ reporter

Doctors say skipping a good night’s sleep to cram for a test the night before could be just as unfortunate as not studying at all. Caffeine does not increase chances for an A.  Georgia Phillips/The Collegian
Doctors say skipping a good night’s sleep to cram for a test the night before could be just as unfortunate as not studying at all. Caffeine does not increase chances for an A.
Georgia Phillips/The Collegian

Somewhere, glazed eyes with heavy lids stare blankly ahead while caffeinated drinks litter desktops in an 8 a.m. class. Someone in the back of the room is snoring softly.

Sleep deprivation is a common complaint for college students, especially for those who take early morning classes, but many young adults don’t understand how essential sleep is to the human body.

“We can decide whether we want to exercise or eat, but breathing and sleep are relatively a necessity,” Fort Worth sleep consultant Donald E. Watenpaugh said. “You can try to hold your breath, but your body will make you breathe. Just like you can try to keep your eyes open, but your body will make you sleep.”

Lack of sleep impairs cognitive function and logical reasoning, which are vital to performing well in class, Watenpaugh said. If students don’t sleep adequately the night before, they cannot engage or concentrate, he said.

“When I’m in class and I haven’t gotten enough sleep, I might as well just stay home because I can’t function at all,” said NW student Armando Conde.

Faculty such as NW psychology instructor Christopher Bell witness the effects firsthand.

“You’re not getting the benefit of an 8 a.m. class because you’re not awake for that 8 a.m. class,” he said. “You can show up, but you won’t be able to participate because you’re not rested enough to be engaged.”

Extreme difficulty in concentrating along with moodiness, grogginess and even minor hallucinations are all potential side effects sleep-deprived people can experience. One cause of student fatigue is studying intensely the entire night before an exam without rest, Watenpaugh said.

“Cramming is controversial because if you don’t know the material the night before your test, you’re going to sacrifice sleep for studying,” he said. “That will lead to poor performance on your test and possible caffeine ingestion to compensate for a sleepless night.”

Take all things in moderation, including caffeine and energy stimulants, Watenpaugh said.

“Caffeine is an important aspect in our culture,” he said. “But it’s overused as a crutch to get around our natural need for sleep.”

Known side effects of caffeine are feeling jittery or ill, developing an addiction and being counterproductive.

“You should never substitute anything for a night of healthy sleep,” Watenpaugh said.

Doctors are still learning new things about the long-term side effects of sleep deprivation every day, Watenpaugh said. But the current known side effects are cardiovascular, sympathetic nervous system problems and the potential development of diabetes.

While sleep isn’t always possible, it is possible to re-energize without caffeine, Bell said.

“Power naps are not a way to catch up on sleep, but if you give your brain a break, it could do wonderful things for you,” he said.

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