College is known for its massive amounts of homework and studying. Of course, it always depends on the professor and the class’ level of difficulty, but it’s generally safe to assume that most college courses are going to require a large amount of studying.
The thing is, while it’s easy to assume that studying nonstop is the key to getting the grade—particularly during finals week or during a stretch of time when you have a lot of assignments piled up—it can actually be harmful to your health to do nothing but study. Now, this isn’t a free pass to stop studying altogether, of course, but for those who lean more toward over-studying, take a quick break and read this article.
Consider the following effects that studying too much could have on your health.
1. Sleep deprivation
Staying up until all hours of the night, cramming for a big test, is generally a classic college experience. However, if you’re doing this regularly and skimping on sleep in order to study or write a paper a few days each week, your body and mind are going to start experiencing the effects of sleep deprivation.
When you’re not getting the right amount of sleep, several things start happening all at once. Your mind stops functioning optimally—meaning that it will be difficult for your mind to retrieve memories when you’re awake since sleep is critical for the consolidation of memories. You’ll also find that you have trouble regulating your emotions: you might feel irritable, cranky, and just emotionally out of sorts. Since your mind processes stress when you’re asleep, skipping those extra hours of slumber can really take a toll on how you take in information and process it.
Other negative effects of sleep deprivation include a slower reaction time, troubles with temperature regulation, looking bad, a suffering heart, an increased appetite for fatty, carb-heavy foods, decreased protection of your immune system, and many other unfortunate consequences. Long story short: it’s more beneficial to your brain and body if you make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep at night in lieu of studying instead of just 4-5.
2. Stress and mental health
If you are constantly studying without intentional breaks, your stress levels are more than likely going to take a hit. Your mind and body need a chance to blow off steam and enjoy life, and if you’re constantly holed away in the library with your nose in a book, you might not be taking care of your mental health.
While it’s important to study, of course, it’s equally important to take some planned breaks: get outside and go for a walk, grab dinner with your roommates, or hit the gym and work some stress out through exercise. Relaxing can be tough when it feels like you have a full plate, but it’s truly essential to your health. If you’re having trouble working in some time to relax, consider scheduling that time out for yourself. Literally right down your break times in your planner or on your calendar, and then when you get to that point, STOP what you’re doing and actually take the break. Invest in some accountability from a roommate or friend if you’re having trouble making this happen.
3. Lack of movement
If you’re always studying, there’s probably a good chance that you’re not exercising as much as you should be. Going to class, studying and paper-writing require you to sit stationary, and there can be a lot of ill-health effects that come from sitting all day. Sitting is now considered the new smoking, and according to StartStanding.com, “Research shows that you can reduce your chances of cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and back pain, all with one simple lifestyle change: reduce the time you spend sitting.”
If you’re living off junk food while you try and study, your risk for weight gain and other health problems might also sky rocket, so consider taking breaks to exercise or even studying on the go. Consider taking a walk with flashcards or with a friend, and quiz each other on your class material. Or set a goal for yourself: ever fifty questions answered correctly equals a walk or jog around campus. Get creative, and see what you can come up with!