Don’t let sleep deprivation take a toll on health - or beauty

Senior Alex Spinello compares his sleep deprivation to the movie Fight Club. "Not that I'm turning into Tyler Durden, but sometimes I do feel like somebody else," he says.

Spinello suffers from sleep apnea. His breathing continually stops and restarts during the night, waking him up as frequently as 10 times an hour. He goes through his days exhausted.

According to CBS's "The Early Show," a new study from the National Sleep Foundation finds that 43 percent of adults admit to rarely getting enough sleep, and 60 percent report problems falling asleep.

Deb Penoyer, nurse manager at the Lauderdale Center for Health & Counseling, says she sees a lot of student cases associated with sleep deprivation. She says it affects "your concentration, so your ability to really make sense of your classes and also your relationships."

Spinello, a studio art major, is experiencing the symptoms firsthand as he gears up for the senior art show. "I have all my worries and all my dreams mixed together," he says. "I can still control it but it's hard – it's hard to separate the thoughts."

So what's the solution? Get more sleep, right? The Mayo Clinic says you need seven to nine hours a night. And if you have time for that, maybe you could also learn viola, join Oprah's Book Club, try your hand at Mandarin Chinese and adopt a puppy so you can stop crying during American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals commercials.

But you don't have time for any of those things, because you're a Geneseo student. So really, what can you do?

Penoyer lists some simple steps to improve shuteye. Save your bed space for sleeping – don't watch TV or eat meals there. This can be hard to avoid in the dorms, but at least refrain from exercising before turning in. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and heavy meals before bedtime.

There are also mental favors you can do for your slumbering self. "A lot of people that have difficulty falling asleep say they mull over everything during the day and kind of ruminate before going to sleep," Penoyer says. Clear your mind!

These suggestions may still be hard to abide by for students with tight schedules and even tighter living spaces. There is one other thing that can help, according to the National Sleep Foundation Study. Using electronic devices such as computers, cell phones and televisions – basically anything with a screen – prevents the brain from releasing melatonin, a hormone that initiates sleep.

So try unplugging before bed. And if you can't, at least cover all the sources of light when you finally do turn in – that includes digital clocks and blinking laptop lights.

Unfortunately, Spinello's escape from sleep deprivation is more complicated than most, and his sleep apnea can require surgery or a special breathing machine. For now, however, he is just excited about his art show and is ready to overcome any obstacle to get there. Fortunately, most students have an easier path to the pillow and are just a few easy steps away from the best sleep they've had since winter break.