The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

61° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Coffee, liquor damaging to sleep health

Drinking late into the night and then waking up early and reaching for a coffee may be harming college students more in the long run than they think.

“What we call declarative memory facts — like for an exam — will be harder to recall depending on the sleep you got before learning,” said Spencer Dawson, a scientist in the UA sleep lab and a graduate student in psychology.

It’s general knowledge that sleep is necessary, and that the less you get, the worse you feel, but there are more factors involved than most people consider.

“There’s a whole host of stuff that gets negatively impacted by less sleep,” said Michael Goldstein, a psychology graduate student who also works in the sleep lab.

For many students, coffee is the magical elixir that enables them to function after a late night of studying, but drinking that last cup to keep you going until 3 a.m. could start a harmful cycle.
“I’m not saying don’t drink coffee,” Dawson said, “but the problem is, it creates a cycle. When you drink coffee later in the day … you may feel like the coffee hasn’t messed you up, but it may very well have scrambled up your brain a little bit, and the next day you’re even more tired, so you just continue to drink more and more coffee.”

Then when the weekend rolls around and students turn to alcohol to forget the troubles of the week, their sleep patterns suffer even more.

“It ends up being a double whammy when you stay out late and party and consume alcohol,” said Goldstein, “because then not only is the sleep time getting cut short, but the quality of sleep changes because alcohol tends to suppress deep sleep.”

When deep sleep is suppressed, it becomes hard to sleep straight through the night, leading to further fatigue.

When you sleep on a normal schedule during the week, and then completely shift away from that so you can stay up late on the weekends, it creates a kind of social jetlag.

“It’s like flying all the way to New York for the weekend,” Dawson said, “and then coming back on Monday and trying to go to school at a normal hour. It’s really hard on your body.”

Campus Health Service at the UA has been getting the word out about the importance of sleep health by publishing pamphlets, doing studies and offering sleep therapy, all in hopes of getting students to understand the damage they’re doing by depriving themselves of sleep.

“I’m not saying you have to go to bed at 10 o’clock every day,” Dawson said, “It’s college, I get it. Let yourself go out and have some fun, but just try to do it within reason.”

More to Discover
Activate Search