Editorial: Energy in sleep, not cans

Need a little pick-me-up for the paper you’ll write last minute tonight? Think it’s a good idea to chug down an original Berry 5-hour Energy shot? Not so fast. Federal officials have charted 13 deaths in the past four years linked to the so-called harmless energy supplement, according to The New York Times.

The compulsion to resort to an energy drink is understandable. Our classwork, jobs and internships demand that we lead fast-paced lives and four-hour nights of sleep often just won’t cut it. Instead of dragging to class in a listless stupor, students rely on a little stimulant — a little something-something to jolt their bodies and minds into productivity. Despite reported side effects of nausea, anxiety and heart palpitations, students mask the fatigue with a product that claims to simulate the benefits of a full night’s rest.

And then there are the Vodka Redbulls and Irish Trashcans college partiers ingest in a fury to avoid admitting that this Saturday night, all we really want to do is nap and recover from a sleepless week. Aware of this fact, the Red Bull and 5-hour Energy drink promoters pass out these beverages like candy, shamelessly marketing the drinks to young people. Sometimes we stay up until the wee hours of the morning by choice, scrolling useless cat GIFs or having hours-long Skype dates with no one in particular. Other times, we sacrifice sleep to maintain the health of other areas in our lives. We can forfeit sleep to exercise, pack tomorrow’s lunch, do laundry or to maintain a healthy social life.

But the truth is, there is no substitute for a good night’s rest. Health begins with listening to our bodies and learning to acknowledge when we feel over-worked and burnt out. Gone are the days when parents knocked on our bedroom doors, gently (or not) reminding us that we needed to get to bed soon. It’s time for students to parent themselves and sometimes, that transition can be challenging. But how far are we willing to push ourselves before we realize the toll it’s taking on our mental and physical health?

Students are quick to make quips about caffeine to one another, commiserating on this shared component of college life: We wish we had IV drips of coffee and cappuccino tablets we unfortunately cannot ingest by the dozen. Instead of looking for ways to fit more sleep into our schedules, we are looking for ways to bypass the biological necessity of our R&R time.

In the face of long to-do lists or homework assignments, sleep and relaxation seem like a distant luxury — a long-term reward that can be traded for short-term assignments. But it’s important. Sleep, or lack of it, governs our mental outlook, colors the way see the world and shapes our attitudes. So instead of watching the newest “Modern Family” episode, wait for its debut on Hulu and take a nap instead.

 

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