Sometimes St. Olaf students just need a nap. That is exactly what happened last Tuesday, Sept. 25 in Tomson Hall. Michael Enich ’14, a mental health peer educator, hosted Naptime!, which focused on effective sleep habits and napping.
Enich, who chose this particular subject because of its relevance to his own life, confessed that when his schoolwork and activities start to consume his life, sleep is often the first priority to go. He felt that the information he was presenting would also be relevant for other students to learn about, as many experience this same situation. Enich began the session by telling attendees about the science of sleep. His overview of the multiple stages of sleep was informative and his charismatic tone kept the audience’s attention.
Enich’s presentation included the five stages of sleep. Stage one is the lightest stage of sleep. It is the transition phase when the muscles relax and one begins to drift off. Stage one sleep typically lasts five to 10 minutes. Stage two sleep still consists of light sleep, but the body temperature begins to drop, and heart rate, breathing and brain activity begin to slow down. Stage three marks the beginning of deep sleep, or slow-wave sleep. During this stage, brain activity consists of delta waves and bursts of beta waves faster brain activity. If one is awakened during this phase, he or she will most likely feel confused and groggy and find it difficult to focus until brain activity increases. In stage four, one experiences the deepest sleep. This is the time when the body carries out most of its repair work and regeneration. During this stage, the brain only shows delta-wave activity. This slower brain activity makes it difficult to wake a person when he or she is experiencing Stage four sleep. After transitioning into stage five, one experiences sleep that consists of rapid eye movements, also known as REM. During this stage, a person experiences dreams and the body undergoes an increase in blood flow, breathing and brain activity. Interestingly, during this stage, the brain is almost as active as it is when a person is completely awake.
Sleep is important, as it prepares the body for the day and provides time for the brain to process information. The duration of time that one sleeps is also very critical. Every person has his or her own basal sleep need, which is the amount of sleep that an individual’s body needs for optimal performance. Adults usually require somewhere between seven and nine hours per night.
Enich told his audience about some healthy sleeping habits that everyone should aim for to receive the optimal benefit from sleep. For instance, a person should keep a regular and consistent sleep schedule, as this can have many positive effects on overall health. Additionally, having a regular sleep schedule helps reduce stress and increases both alertness and productivity.
Many college students do not always prioritize sleep, despite its importance. When Enich asked the 50 attendees if any of them get less than seven hours of sleep a night, about one third raised their hands.
Luckily, Enich went on to explain that naps can be used as a tool for a quick energy boost. For an effective nap, one should make sure to turn off the lights and find a comfortable place to rest, such as a couch or a mattress. It is smart to use a blanket because body temperature drops during sleep. Timing is also key; a nap should not exceed 20 minutes, as this can result in grogginess after waking. Keeping the nap short results in higher alertness, sharper concentration and elevated mood.
One interesting recommendation that Enich provided for an extra energy boost was to drink coffee right before a nap, as caffeine takes approximately 30 minutes to affect the body. Upon waking, one would be energized from both the nap and the caffeine.
After being exposed to all this information about sleeping, many students admitted to feeling sleepy themselves. Fortunately for those students, Enich had set aside time for a nap. All 50 attendees rested their heads on the desks as the lights were turned off and the shades were drawn. After 20 minutes, the lights were turned back on and it appeared as though many of the students had fallen asleep. Considering that this is St. Olaf, those were most likely greatly needed naps.