Volume 91, Issue 13

Thursday, September 18, 1997



Rude awakening

By Karen Bong
Gazette Writer

Let's all get in bed. It will be very good for us.

That is the bottom line for Stanley Coren, a professor at the University of British Columbia and author of the book Sleep Thieves, who found prolonged sleep deprivation has a negative impact on intelligence, awareness and one's ability to drive, function and yes – even learn.

Coren is working for increased awareness of what he considers to be one of society's most dangerous misconceptions. He said of every 24 hours, nine to 10 should be spent sleeping. For every hour of sleep lost under eight hours, a loss of about one IQ point is felt.

Sleep deprivation has a cumulative effect on the brain, he explained, adding a person of average intelligence with an IQ of 100 could lose between 10-15 IQ points from losing 10 hours of sleep a week.

After puberty, a shift occurs in an individual where they tend to wake late and work late, he said. "This is why you have to put a stick of dynamite under a teenager to wake them up, and drop a piano on their head to get them back to sleep," Coren said.

Only with age do our internal clocks shift again, making us more larkish. Late-night partying and early-morning classes translate into little sleep for students, Coren said.

He explained there is no compensating for lack of sleep and no amount of motivation or caffeine persuasion can take the place of getting enough sleep.

"There is no way to teach your body and mind to work well when all it wants to do is collapse in bed," Coren said, adding even if your performance is good while tired, you have still sustained intelligence loss from losing sleep and are not working at your optimum level.

All of this is a common sense opinion for Case Vanderwolf, a psychology professor at Western.

"Sleep deprivation impairs your ability to do work," Vanderwolf said. "You miss chunks in lectures and your ability to write exams is decreased."

The annual cost of sleep-related accidents in the United States is $56 billion, with 25,000 deaths and 250,000 injuries, he said, adding with such figures, sleep-deprivation would rank among the greatest health concerns if it were considered a disease.

Western's Student Health Services offers the following tips on how to help students get the sleep they need – avoid coffee, food, strenuous work, and alcohol before bed, establish a sleep-routine, and try listening to music and massage relaxation techniques.

To Contact The News Department: gaznews@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997