Archive | September, 2014

7 Tips for Students (And the Rest of Us) to Get 7 Hours of Quality Sleep

18 Sep

Sleep.

At first glance, it may seem like a waste of time, especially to those with a go-go-go, Type A personality. There is an obvious recognition that sleep is necessary, but it can also be accompanied by a twinge of guilt since nothing tangible seems to get accomplished after a visit from Mr. Sandman. As a result, people tend to cheat on sleep, in some cases cutting a few hours a night. Instead of the recommended 7 to 9 hours for most teens and adults, many people get only 4 or 5 or 6 hours.

Despite protests to the contrary by many, teens and adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night to function at 100-percent capacity.

Despite protests to the contrary, teens and adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night to function at 100-percent capacity.

“Most of us think we can get by very well with less sleep, but studies have shown that only a tiny percentage of people can function as well on less than 7 hours of sleep per night,” says Mary Pat Lamberti, assistant professor of nursing at Southern. “It affects us physically, such as our reaction time being reduced; cognitively, not being able to perform as well on tests; emotionally, perhaps being less in control of our emotions; and health-wise, with our immune systems being compromised.”

She says that many myths continue, such as the amount of sleep that young adults need. Some feel that since high school and college students are young and can recover physically from stresses better than older folks, the same must be true for staying up late and getting up early. But the evidence points otherwise, according to Lamberti, who did her doctoral dissertation on sleep among college students. Similarly, the notion that senior citizens need less sleep than the rest of us is also a myth, she says.

Lamberti says that Americans are getting less sleep and reduced sleep quality today than 30 years ago. “This is probably due, at least in part, to our hyper-connected world and the hectic pace of society,” she says.

High school and college students tend to be the worst culprits of sleep deprivation, she says. “There are a lot of demands for their time – school, job, sports, social activities. Those habits learned during adolescence and young adulthood tend to continue in adulthood.”

So, what should we do? Lamberti offers several suggestions to improve sleeping habits.

*Go to bed and get up at about the same time each day. “Your body needs to be trained in terms of when to fall asleep and when to wake up,” she says. “Consistency pays off.”

*Sleep in a darkened room. This signals to the brain that it’s nighttime and time to sleep. Having the TV on, lights on, etc. can trick the brain into thinking it’s still daytime. That may help to keep us up a little longer if we really need to on a given night, but we’ll pay for it.

*Try to avoid watching TV, eating, or reading while in bed. Again, this helps train the brain that when you’re in bed, it’s time to sleep.

*Caffeine should be avoided in the evenings, and for some people, should cease after lunchtime.

*Alcohol and many other drugs affect sleep patterns, resulting in a less-than-refreshing night of sleep.

*On the other hand, exercising helps, especially if it done 4 to 6 hours before sleep. It takes a while to wind down from a hard workout, so avoid strenuous activity immediately before going to bed.

*Turn off the computer a few hours before sleep. The computer stimulates parts of the brain and can delay sleep.

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5 Tips for College Students to Control Loan Debt

5 Sep

Managing finances has always been a challenge for college students, who are often on a tight budget and on their own for the first time.

But in recent years, students are borrowing more to pay for college, resulting in skyrocketing loan debt. In fact, student loan debt in America exceeded $1 trillion in 2014 with more than 40 million Americans having incurred some of that debt.

Student loan debt is saddling graduates for many years after college. But steps can be taken to reduce those long-term costs.

Student loan debt is saddling graduates for many years after college. But steps can be taken to reduce those long-term costs.

Lew DeLuca, Southern’s new coordinator for student financial literacy and advisement, says that while loans help millions of students each year, it is important that they and their parents understand the ramifications of debt and what steps can be taken to minimize it.

“Students often don’t realize how much cheaper it is to save money now, rather than borrowing money and paying it back later,” he said. “Interest really adds up.”

He offers several suggestions to students and parents on how to keep this debt under control:

*If you receive a refund from your financial aid office (because costs sometimes turn out to be less than the amount of money requested in the loan), give serious consideration to paying it back. While it may be a lot more fun to use that money to go on a trip or buy various items, you can reduce the long-term pain of debt if you sacrifice a little now. Remember, if you didn’t get the refund, you might not ever miss it. DeLuca acknowledges that there are circumstances when students genuinely need the refund money for expenses. But if it is possible to pay at least some of the refund back, do it.

*Do your best to graduate in 4 years. We know this is not always possible. Some students switch majors, or may have major or diploma requirements that make this difficult. But consider taking classes in the summer or winter, if possible, especially if you find yourself behind in credits. DeLuca says the cost to attend one additional year at a college or university is substantial. “You not only have the tuition and other expenses associated with another year at school, but you could be losing a starting salary for a year, or part of a year.” For example, if someone with an entry level job in your field would typically make $40,000, add that to the cost for another year of tuition, fees, books and other expenses. Typical college students could be looking at a real cost of $60,000, $70,000, or more. And if that job offers its employees a 3-percent raise after the first year, you would be losing out on that amount in subsequent years. “It really adds up!” DeLuca says.

*Try to keep your student loan debt to an amount that is less than the starting salary of your first job after graduation. Not only is this wise financially, but psychologically. To owe more money than you know you are going to make next year can be quite a psychological burden.

*Find a college that fits into your financial reality. There are many quality schools that are relatively inexpensive compared to others. This can be a good option for students, especially if you are interested in pursuing a particular program that has an excellent reputation at a less expensive college or university.

*Sound financial guidance can be money in your pocket. Don’t be afraid to seek financial advice from a reputable financial planner.

DeLuca was selected recently to fill the newly created position of coordinator of student financial literacy and advisement at Southern. The university financial literacy and advising webpage offers additional facts and tips about student loan debt.

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