Photo by Tyler Meuter

It’s 11:15 p.m. on a Thursday night and there’s have a lab report to finish, a quiz to study for, and a mountain of homework for the week that hasn’t even started. Oh, and there is also a 9:00 a.m. class tomorrow — better wake up early. After a seemingly productive night, it feels like time to take a well-deserved break.

It’s easy to open up a new tab on the internet to browse, scroll or to watch a brightly lit screen,  while unaware of the trap now set. One little scroll down that Facebook newsfeed, one short funny cat video clip, and one quick recommended YouTube video seems harmless. What was supposed to be a short five minute break actually turned into a couple of hours and now it’s 1:30 a.m. Congratulations, you’re a time-traveler.

Aggravated with the failure to manage time, you start back at the stopping point. Sure, a couple more hours up won’t hurt. It’s now 3:30 a.m. and the lab report is finally finished. Shower, and you’re in bed by 4:00 a.m. Alarm rings at 8:30 a.m. and it’s time to drag your sleepy self out of bed and go to class. Time to once again make a promise to yourself to start working earlier and go to bed by 12 a.m. But chances are slim it will remain unbroken for long.

Sound familiar? After being at Georgia Tech for over a year now, I can see that sleep deprivation affects the majority of students. I’ve seen and experienced the rigor and the high expectations we set for ourselves to make the grades we want in order to progress closer to our
career goals. To achieve our goals and dreams, sacrificing a couple hours of sleep doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to both our physical and mental health.

What’s even worse is that we are regularly exposed to bright screens and monitors. Developing this habit can inhibit the ability to fall asleep if staring at a screen in the late night hours becomes routine. Social media, video websites and apps are cleverly structured to keep their one-time audiences continuously entertained so that “just five more minutes and then I’ll go to sleep” turns into hours before you realize it.

During the hours spent asleep, the body processes the day’s events and information and prepares for the next day. Cutting this time short makes the body unprepared for another day of lectures, assessments and homework, and results can include feeling tired, slightly moody and not being able to give 100 percent.

There are a number of physical symptoms of chronic sleep shortage as well. Without enough sleep, one can experience weight gain, acne and even a weakened immune system. Mentally, exhaustion, stress and inability to concentrate are all possibilities.

Without sleep, physical and mental health and safety are at risk. Just because you “did it” in high school or the past few years at Tech does not mean you’re immune to the dangers. Sacrificing a couple hours of sleep to extend the hours of the day is not worth sacrificing well-being and safety.

Whether a freshmen or a senior at Tech, don’t assume the risks don’t apply to you just because “nothing bad has happened yet.” Don’t underestimate the need for sleep.