College Students are Sleep Deprived. No surprises there.

I’m in a class right now about sleep (Psych 435: Biological Rhythms and Behavior), and it has definitely been one of the more interesting and relevant classes I’ve taken since coming to this university.  On the first day of class, my professor told us that she didn’t believe in using textbooks because they were not up to date on the most recent sleep research, so instead of paying for a textbook, we spent our money on a Zeo device.  For those of you who haven’t heard of Zeo, it’s a small headband you wear while you’re asleep that will track and record your sleep.  It tells you how much time you spend in REM and non-REM sleep, how many minutes it took you to fall asleep, and how many times you woke up in the middle of the night.  Then, it gives you suggestions on how to improve your sleep.

My favorite feature of this device is definitely the alarm.  For those of you who don’t know, you feel the most refreshed when you wake up at the end of  a full sleep cycle (each cycle is typically 90 minutes but varies between individuals).  On the other hand, if you force yourself to wake up in the middle of your cycle, you tend to feel more groggy and sleepy for the rest of the day.  The alarm on the Zeo device will wake you up only at the end of your sleep cycle–that way, even if you can only get a few hours of sleep (like so many college students experience), you can maximize your sleep efficiency by waking up only at the end of a sleep cycle.

I actually hated measuring my sleep at the beginning of the semester because it just made me depressed to see how poor my sleep quality was.  They give you a score (1-100) for overall sleep each night, and while the average person gets a score of around 80, I was consistently getting a score in the 40’s and 50’s.  One time, I even got a shocking 74.  But that never happened again.

Sometimes, I thought my Zeo device was broken.  I thought it was impossible that I could be scoring in the 40’s because I slept completely fine.  Sure, I was tired in the morning, but who isn’t?  I just make myself a cup of coffee and I’m good to go for the rest of the day.  I am perfectly fine performing my daily activities and I never feel sleepy during class.  But why was this Zeo device telling me otherwise?

Well, I got my question answered in a research article we read for that class, and I am still shocked at the results of their study.  In this study, they concluded that chronic sleep restriction (defined as 6 hours of sleep or less p/night) produced cognitive performance deficits equivalent to 2 nights of total sleep deprivation.  I will spare you the horrifying details from the results of their study, but basically, I function just as well as someone who has pulled 2 all nighters in a row.

What?! There are definitely periods of time when I consistently get 5-6 hours of sleep a night, but I didn’t think the effects would be that detrimental.  The article stated that people who are chronically sleep deprived (like me) don’t think of themselves as feeling that tired (me again), but that is almost more dangerous because they believe that can function completely normally.

I can definitely relate.  I don’t pull all nighters that frequently, but when I do, I feel like complete crap.  However, when I get 6 hours of sleep for a week or two, I just get so used to it and become so dependent on caffeine that I feel just fine.

Now it all makes sense.  My zeo device was not wrong.  I just overestimated my cognitive abilities.

As the semester is quickly ending and finals are approaching, I find it almost impossible to get more than 6 hours of sleep.  But now I’m torn because it may be doing more harm and good to stay up late working on an essay or studying for an exam if I’m really going to be that cognitively impaired.  Maybe if I slept earlier, I’d be more efficient working during the day.  On the other hand, sleeping the night before an exam when I haven’t gone over all my notes is really not going to help me much.

Any thoughts or ideas?

 

Well, this is embarrassing..

I’m honestly embarrassed that I turned this in as my final paper for Psych 317 during my freshmen year here at Michigan..

*****

I’ve grown up in the same exact house in Canton, Michigan for my entire life, so I think it’s accurate to say that I have adapted well to my community, and I’m very familiar with the area in which I’ve lived all my life.  Coming to Ann Arbor was definitely different with such a lively downtown area with different kinds of people everywhere I walk, but I would guess that most of the college kids are in similar living situations as I am.  However, going to the Delray Neighborhood House for my internship is a completely different environment that I’m very unfamiliar with.

*****

I can’t even post any more of it because it’s too painful for me to read.  Everything was just so repetitive and way too wordy.  I think I just tried to stretch my paragraphs out because of a page limit or something, but clearly, it did not work–the whole essay was just confusing and uninteresting.

Voluntourism: Helpful or Not?

Volunteering abroad is becoming increasingly popular, especially among college students.  For most of us, it sounds like the perfect trip: you get to spend time helping the sick and impoverished during the day, lay out on the beautiful beaches of Costa Rica on the weekends, and hit up the bars at night.  In other words, you get to explore a vacation spot but feel good doing it because you’re mainly there to “help people”.

But how much help are we really doing by going on these week-to-month long trips?  Could we even potentially be hurting others with these “voluntourism” trips?  Dorinda Elliot certainly thinks so: http://www.cntraveler.com/ecotourism/2013/02/volunteer-vacations-rewards-risks.  In this article, she argues that real “help” can’t be achieved unless we have a deep understanding of their culture and the issues going on in their country.  Additionally, since these trips are only a few weeks long, she believes that long term improvements can never be made in these areas of need.  In fact, going in without being aware of the cultural and political issues of the foreign country can even be hurtful.  Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have stereotypes of the people living in third world countries.  However, like all stereotypes, they are not always correct.  When we go into their country without seriously taking the time to learn about their lifestyle and culture, our actions could be seen as offensive or even hurtful to the natives.  While Americans like to think they are the “angels swooping in to help”, let’s be honest here: we cannot seriously help a community that has been stuck in poverty for years in two weeks.  Most volunteers lack the skills necessary to do serious work, and more importantly, the work we do is not always helpful.  For example, we can’t go to a community in Africa and build wells if they don’t receive water in that area.  However, most American volunteers don’t take the time to learn about what the local community needs and assumes that all poor African neighborhoods could use wells.  When we hold the view that we are better than them, that could lead to some serious miscommunication problems.

Does this mean we should just get rid of voluntourism all together?

This debate about whether volunteering abroad is helpful or hurtful really interests me because I’ve personally been on these trips before.  Last summer, I went to Costa Rica on a medical service trip for two weeks.  We were a group of pre-health college students around the country opening free clinics in very poor neighborhoods.  Personally, I thought (and still think) this trip honestly did impact me and expose me to certain human interactions that I would not have experienced in Michigan.

I’ll be honest.  I walked into their neighborhood completely horrified and saddened by how dirty the entire place was.  I saw shivering and starving dogs wimpering on every street corner.  When I walked inside one of their homes, it looked exactly the same as the outside: no walls, no floors, and no doors.  Just cement and dirt everywhere.  Sick babies were coughing and throwing up on the ground inside their home because they didn’t even have trash cans.  I felt uncomfortable and sick to my stomach, and I felt horrible for everyone living there.  But this wasn’t a fair assessment of who they were as people.  I was seriously judging them, as I’m sure they were seriously judging me.  Our leaders encouraged us to talk to the families and share stories with them, and while we were scared at first, the ice was immediately broken we realized how welcoming they were.  As I spent more time with these families, my attitudes gradually started to change.  Watching the children laugh and play with each other, seeing the elderly woman kiss me on the cheek numerous times, and exchanging stories with different members of the neighborhood made me envious of their life.  I envied that they were able to live so simply and still be so happy with their life.  I envied that they were welcoming to me while my first notion was to judge them.  I envied that they had more compassion than most people I know back in Michigan.

 Yet, I don’t think this two week trip changed my life in any way.  Nor do I think I changed any lives by opening up a free clinic.  After reading the debate about voluntourism, I wonder if I even did help these Costa Rican natives at all.  Sure, I gave them free medicine to those who needed it, but I don’t think it will help them in the long run because their lifestyle probably did not change.  I’m scared to think about whether I actually hurt these families in some way.  What if I did more harm than good by going into these communities?

I’m interested to hear your opinions about this issue!  Have you been on these kinds of trips before?  What were your experiences like?  And finally, do you think voluntourism is really helpful or hurtful?

 

the college education bubble

Since I had no prior knowledge about the concept of a college education bubble, I thought this video was very clear and informative for an introduction of the topic:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2012/06/28/glenn_harlan_reynolds_the_higher_education_bubble_is_going_to_burst.html

After watching the video, I felt like this article did a good job going more in-depth about the issue:

http://www.forbes.com/2010/12/16/education-college-bubble-opinions-contributors-jerry-bowyer.html

The Forbes article was addressed to parents who have children in college or about to be in college.  However, I think the video could have been addressed to anyone concerned about this issue.  I could not find anything that solely targeted current college students as the audience.

a food enthusiast. and some more.

There are many things I can do in life while eating.  I eat when I study, when I walk to class, when I catch up with a friend, when I go shopping…the list goes on.  I certainly don’t have to eat when I do all these things, but I choose to because I just enjoy it so much.  I like to think I’ve developed a pretty good palate since I’ve tried so many different kinds of food.  I’m not too picky–I love spicy things and cheesy things, but I also have a weak spot for sweets.  I enjoy all kinds of ethnic foods, with the exception of rice and beans. I hate rice and beans.

But besides that, I have other passions as well.  I am currently a junior working towards my double major in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience (BCN) and biomolecular science, with a minor in writing.  I love being around children, and I think that the brain is seriously fascinating, so I am hoping to become a doctor and do something meaningful with those interests.  However, it is going to take a long, long time for me to do that.  In the meantime, I just try to relax when I can and enjoy my life as it happens.  It doesn’t take a lot to make me happy, but for now, I cherish the small moments, like laying on the kitchen floor and having heart-to-hearts to my roommates (while eating).  I enjoy the comfort I feel from familiarity, but I also love the excitement I get from trying new things, so I also love traveling (and trying new food) and have been fortunate enough to visit so many different countries around the world.

By: Shirley Shue

Not Very Credible…

Whenever I’m trying to do research on a topic, I always run into the problem of finding websites that just don’t seem very credible. It might contain some great information, and I probably believe them, but I just can’t cite it because the website was written without any sources or written for a much younger target audience.  Whenever something online lacks sources, they automatically lose credibility.

http://www.enchantedlearning.com/history/us/MLK/

This is a really simple example, but when I google “Martin Luther King Jr”, the enchanted learning website shows up as one of the top 5 links.  I’m not saying enchanted learning contains incorrect information, but it’s also not the most useful source for anyone older than 10 years old.