Staring at that 9am block in your timetable late at night, and forcing yourself awake after a weak struggle with your alarm clock is never a good feeling. But while we’re all at university to study, and the prospect of 9-5 employment is looming after graduation, should we really complain? Would an extra hour in bed really make much of a difference?
According to research from the University of Surrey Sleep Research Centre, extending your usual sleeping pattern by one hour could be extremely beneficial. During the study, genes associated with stress response and immunity were more active in those sleeping for longer, meaning one hours extra sleep makes your life less stressful and makes fighting off fresher’s flu that little bit easier.
Participants in the study also took part in mental agility tests and those with less sleep performed worse. Other studies have shown that failing to get good nights sleep can reduce your exam scores by up to 40%. So, getting up at 9am could be making your grades fall rather than rise.
One hours extra sleep makes your life less stressful and makes fighting off fresher’s flu that little bit easier.
This poor exam performance observed in those who don’t sleep for long enough, even if they stay up late revising, is thought to be linked to the reduction in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase of sleep. This occurs towards the end of your sleeping period so that extra hour in bed ensures you get your quota of REM sleep. REM sleep is the period in which your brain converts short term memories from the last 24 hours into long term memories. Without it, you would effectively become Drew Barrymore in ‘50 First Dates’.
Other ways of increasing your REM sleep is to avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine late at night, and ensuring you are in a dark environment when you want to sleep. Fluorescent ‘blue’ light from laptop screens, phones and digital alarm clocks all suppress your body’s natural melatonin production – your sleep hormone – and throw off your natural body clock. While this not only makes it harder for you to get a good night’s sleep, researches at Harvard Medical School state this could also increase your chance of developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Getting into a regular sleeping pattern is also important. While this might be harder for students going out a couple of nights a week, if you go to sleep at the same time each night and set your alarm for approximately seven and a half hours later, your body clock will quickly adjust and you’ll be waking up five minutes before your alarm every morning.
REM sleep is the period in which your brain converts short term memories from the last 24 hours into long term memories.
Participants in the study felt the benefits of this extra hour of sleep after just one week, showing the dramatic affect our sleep patterns have on our lives. So moving lectures back an hour could mean students are better educated, less stressed and healthier in the long run. Down with the 9ams.
Image: D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr