Written by Kim Fernandez
A fresh year means many new changes for every person at Mercer: new schedule, new goals, new organizations, the list could go on. Because of this chaos, many people may not prioritize a daily dedication to keeping their mind and body healthy. Students are notorious for scarfing down pizza between classes in the cafeteria and binging on energy drinks to pull an all-nighter for a test. The fact is that this behavior in one’s diet has the opposite effect we desire for our minds; it impairs our mental capacity and causes us to perform far worse than what we originally aimed for.
Grabbing a slice of pizza from the Caf and eating it quickly is a good time saver at that moment, but it ends up slowing you down more in the long run. Foods like pizza, known as “junk food” in simpler terms, have been known to cause poor mental health and even affect our minds enough to induce depression or anxiety. These problems occur because the foods do not contain the essential nutrients our bodies need to function properly and instead are heavily processed and added with preservatives. Because the nutrients our bodies need are reduced, a general fatigue or sluggish feeling becomes an unhealthy regular in a person. Not only does it make us more tired, but these foods also cause us to accumulate high fat and sodium levels. These high levels can cause hypertension and high blood pressure, thus leading to worse, and possibly chronic, health conditions and lower performance abilities. A salad might take a little longer to prepare, but it will make up for the quantity in the quality of your time. But it is important to remember that food is not the only thing which affects our mental and physical health, but sleep is also an important, yet neglected, necessity.
The brain is more sensitive to our actions than we care to admit. When we deprive our minds of sleep, our brains become compromised in their processing power and do not keep the information stored as efficiently. Sleep has been found to be so effective for retention of recollections and data, that through studies, it has been found that while we are asleep our brain literally examines what we have done in our day, processes the information we attained, and creates memories for them. Therefore, when you force your mind awake with energy drinks or coffee, you deprive your mind of this ability. Because of this phenomenon, some scholars have suggested that scheduling 60 minute naps between long periods of studying helps the mind to retain the material more efficiently. This is because our brains will “review” as we sleep and improve long-term alertness within the individual after the initial grogginess. This is why when an all-nighter is pulled to study, we are not as mentally able to “pull” that information back out on a test and blank out instead. Not only does sleep help with memory, but sleep deprivation has been known to cause hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. So instead of trying to cram several hours of speed-reading through chapters in a textbook, some sleep will actually better prepare you to rationalize and retain what you have already studied at an optimal level.