I emulated Dr. Steakley’s morning routine to see what this whole “sleep” thing is all about.
Gasps and loud muttering reverberated around the echoing walls of Cheney Parish Hall as Dr. Steakley revealed a shocking fact: she wakes up each morning at 4:30 a.m.
Seeing as many St. Mary’s students stay up extremely late studying, such an early wake up call seems counterintuitive; however, counterintuitive action is exactly what Dr. Steakley encouraged in her chapel talk about sleep and the factors -- namely social media — which prohibit a healthy amount of sleep.
When I spoke to Dr. Steakley, she emphasized the idea that, while social media itself is not necessarily unhealthy, it keeps us from doing things that are. Checking phones at night reduces our recommended 8-9 hours of shut-eye because our brains are stimulated not only by the activity on social media but also by the blue light emitted from screens. This lack of sleep prohibits us from being able to pay attention, solve problems and remember information.
Because of this, sleep is arguably the most essential factor in “working smarter, not harder.” Dr. Steakley said, ”prioritizing sleep is crucial to well being.” After hearing about the benefits of putting away the phone and getting enough sleep, I decided to try it for myself by following Dr. Steakley’s morning routine.
Dr. Steakley wakes up early and takes about 45 minutes to sit with her coffee and have time for mindfulness and prayer before checking her phone. “I get up at 4:30 because I like to start the morning on a positive note,” she said. Though I admit I may have dozed off once (or twice) while trying this for myself, I appreciated the relaxing, thoughtful time which gave me a sense of calm that lasted throughout the day. Surprisingly, getting out of bed was not the hardest part. Refraining from checking my phone for the first hour of being up was difficult; however, being able to center myself before I was bombarded with social media posts, college emails and meeting reminders helped me tackle it all without stress when I finally checked.
Dr. Steakley typically eats a small breakfast during her hour-long drive to school. She loves her commute because it’s a time to think, problem-solve or just enjoy listening to music. I grabbed a protein bar on the way out the door and queued up some of my favorite songs for my drive to school which takes approximately 2.5 minutes. I took a pit stop at Ugly Mug for another cup of joe, then left to arrive at school around 7:00 a.m.
Because I had gone to bed extra early the night before, my early morning didn’t “catch up” to me later in the day; in fact, my energy was more consistent than ever because I started the day without rushing or overwhelming myself with information and decisions.
Since sleep clearly makes people feel and learn better, why do so many students (myself included) wear sleep depravity as a badge of honor? Sure, staying up all night indicates that a student worked hard. But the work ethic which allows us to be the most efficient students possible is characterized by smart -- albeit counterintuitive -- choices such as hitting the hay at a more reasonable hour or giving ourselves time without the distraction of social media. Of course, you don’t have to get up at 4:30 to be a good student. But to best take care of yourself so you can be the smartest worker possible, do yourself a favor and begin to teach yourself what Dr. Steakley hopes we can all learn: ”the single most important thing that you can do to make things better for yourself is to get sleep.”
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