Dec 082011
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Students’ collective hell is closing in as CSU’s finals week nears and concepts of “studying” and “sleep” assume new meanings.

These five days –– marked by grueling exams and projects worth huge chunks of course grades –– are typically prepared for in equally intense study sessions.

For Daniel Hayes, a CSU junior business marketing major, that means not sleeping.

“I wrote an essay and then studied for finals. No sleep for the last 36 hours,” he said. “Now I’m drinking at the Ramskeller.”

Other students are also choosing to sacrifice bedtime to finish assignments, keeping coffee, caffeine pills, energy drinks and other stimulants nearby in order to power through the night.

But dieticians at CSU warn that these and similar strategies to avoid sleep in order to study for finals may end up damaging a person’s ability to do well on the crucial exams.

If an all-nighter must be pulled, however, there is a right way to do it.

The right way

“Students need to continue to focus on a whole foods diet,” said Kim Bruno, director of the Colorado Center of Health Nutrition.

Cuisine that’s rich in healthy fats, like avocados, fish, nuts and flax seeds, helps keep students awake during long nights.

“Those are actually going to give them more energy at a cellular level to learn … ” she said.

Protein, said Chris Bachman, a dietician at CSU’s Health Services, helps students stay more alert as well.

She added that consuming caffeine –– arguably the most popular choice among students wanting to avoid sleep –– in moderation could also be used to pull all-nighters.

Those who don’t feel like eating to keep conscious also have options.

“Sometimes, just getting fresh air on our face kind of wakes us up as well,” Bachman said.

The wrong way

Pounding energy drinks in order to stay awake could set students up for failure during exam time.

The stimulants provide its consumers “a false sense of energy,” Bruno said.

And when it goes away, so too can any knowledge gained while they were awake.

“You have to take the test in the state that you studied,” she added. “If you would just eat a healthy diet with whole foods … then your body is just going to naturally be able to store that information and you’re going to perform better on your test.”

Even if a student succeeded on his or her finals after consuming unhealthy stimulants, they may still face negative consequences.

“For staying awake for short periods of time, maybe it’s okay,” Bruno said, but using them to keep alert for more than one occasion “can definitely do damage to their adrenal glands and their stress response system.”

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at

The right way to stay awake:
Eat: avocados, nuts, flax seeds, fish, and other foods with healthy fats.
Drink: water and coffee in moderation.

The wrong way to stay awake:
Eat: sugary foods snacks like Poptarts and Oreos.
Drink: lots of energy drinks and caffeine pills.

 Posted by at 5:57 pm

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