Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘Sleepless at UMass’ event draws drowsy droves to Student Union Ballroom

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(Erica Lowenkron/ Daily Collegian)

(Erica Lowenkron/ Daily Collegian)

Over 600 people attended the Sleep Fair, co-sponsored by the Center for Health Promotion and Campus Recreation on Wednesday between 1 and 3 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom.

Rebecca Spencer, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts and director of the graduate program in neuroscience, spoke at a later event titled “Sleepless at UMass” on Wednesday evening regarding sleep and its many benefits and challenges.

The fair, lively with vendors, activities and free giveaways, hosted several stalls from various organizations and businesses including Center for Health Promotion (CHP), Tea Guys, Young Living Essential Oils, department of psychological and brain sciences, Sun and Moon Original and Campus Recreation.

A violin was being played as UMass Health Services acupuncture clinic offered free acupuncture services and Pioneer Valley Reiki provided free massages. The fair also had a small nap corner where students were allowed to sleep in between classes.

“Sleep is an important health issue nationwide. It is one of the top five health imperatives for academic success in college campuses,” said Michelle Letendre, BASICS specialist at the Center for Health Promotion.

In the hour-long talk, Spencer discussed the importance of sleep by explaining the science behind the need for sleep and reasons why dreams occur. She suggested healthy sleep hygiene and how to sleep better.

“Sleep is doing work for our cognitive and emotional processing so we can work better when we are awake,” said Spencer. A healthy sleeping schedule leads to better memory, decision making, athlete performance, emotional processing, immune function, creativity and problem solving.

“Science has shown enhancing sleep in athletes can better improve their performance,” said Spencer.

Sleep also leads to optimal decision making. “Sleep on it when making decisions when things are not cut and dry,” said Spencer.

Spencer discussed the several adverse health implications of lack of sleep. “Studies show people who sleep for less than seven hours per night are three times more susceptible to catch a cold, flu or disease.”

“Sleep deprivation leads to performance deficit equal to intoxication,” she added.

“Being awake for just over 18 hours is equal to being buzzed or impaired. All-nighters or being awake for above 22 hours is equal to being illegally intoxicated or having a blood alcohol level of over 0.8 percent,” she said.

Spencer ended the talk with suggestions on how to sleep better. She said that sleep hygiene and good sleeping habits can do the same work for sleep as prescribed medicine.

“Medication works but there are other things that work too and are healthier for you,” said Spencer.

She advised to avoid exercising before bed as people need a lower body temperature to sleep, and exercising leads to an elevated body temperature. She also argued against caffeine, evening light and stimulation before bed.

“Keep caffeine for the morning,” she suggested. “Evening light tells your body to be awake so minimize access to light when going to bed.”

She promoted a consistent sleeping pattern of sleeping and waking up about the same time every night and morning, give or take an hour. “Napping helps to make up for sleep loss,” she said when confronted with the inflexible sleeping schedule of college students.

Vitamin D, sunlight and melatonin are other effective supplements of sleep. “It stabilizes your natural sleeping cycle,” she said.

The representatives of CHP, department of of psychological and brain sciences and Campus Recreation also spoke about the effects of sleep or lack thereof at the fair and suggested possible supplements that may help students to sleep better.

“This was a kickoff event for ongoing programing that the Center for Health Promotion is arranging to help students,” said Letendre.

Nujhat Purnata can be reached at [email protected]

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