Cherwell

Sleeping on a Busy Student Lifestyle

Returning, once more, to sleep. This might seem familiar to you:

“A lot of their tips for a better night’s sleep probably sound fairly obvious; keep to a regular schedule, take time to relax before going to sleep, avoid food and caffeine after a certain time of day. How easily these things can be slotted into an average student’s timetable is another question.” [Cherwell]

This has long been a fascination of mine. How do you balance a busy schedule with late nights and different hours, with a quality sleep each night? For so many students, sensible advice on sleep doesn’t help because you’re too busy doing less sensible stuff.

That’s not to say you aren’t able to act sensibly, but how many of you will stick to the same bedtime every single day of the year? I certainly don’t.

The BBC reports on a study at Boston College, which found high levels of sleep deprivation in school students. I wouldn’t be surprised if lack of sleep continues on at university too. And beyond!

(photo by BrittneyBush)

Sleep doesn’t have to be a nightmare (photo by BrittneyBush)

How do you keep up the lifestyle you want and get a better dose of sleep? Try these five things:

  1. Give it your best shot – When you know you’re tired and should be in bed, make a move toward getting the zeds. The number of times I hear stuff like, “I’m so tired, but I need to stay a bit longer” and “I’ve got important work in the morning, but I can’t miss this” is amazing. Nobody wants to miss out, but how often is it worth it in the long run? Make a choice and pay the price based on what you choose. Don’t try to fit everything in.
  2. Focus on the worst habit – All that advice may be hard to swallow, but just think how much you could benefit from tackling just one major sleep issue. Christie Mims says, “make one change that will make you feel better and will have a positive impact on your day”. If, for example, you go heavy on the energy drinks at the end of a night out, find a way to lay off them. That one sacrifice may be enough to improve your sleep in a big way.
  3. Deal with the easiest issues – Instead of dealing with the worst habit straight away, try the other way around. Get the small stuff out of the way. Anything that makes for a quick win can still help the cause for better sleep. Take baby steps and you may find that it only takes a few before you’ve improved your circumstances a lot.
  4. Be brutal when it counts – Perfect sleep over the whole year may seem to much to ask. Instead, try for a few better nights when you’ve got essays to write and exams to revise for. Check in advance when the big study events are scheduled and commit to hardcore sleep tactics during that time. No question.
    You may be tempted to stay out late, but don’t. You’d love that last pint, but don’t. You’d rather stay up late to get more revision done, but don’t. Remind yourself that this isn’t going to last forever and that you have good reason for what you’re doing.
  5. Listen to your body – Rather than get more hours of sleep, change the quality of the hours you’re already getting.

How do you bridge the gap between student life and awesome sleep? Let us know in the comments.

Student Societies and the Problem With Controversial Invitations

Controversy is a strange thing. Simply knowing about the matter is enough to cause a reaction. Nothing needs to have occurred yet to cause offense. The implications and the possibilities can be enough.

Matters such as these that move into the wider public arena quickly draw attention. When people find out that something or someone controversial has been given a platform, opinions quickly divide. A mere invitation will cause offense, creating friction from the outset.

For student societies, that makes inviting any controversial public figure a tough job.

hot topic (photo by Enokson)

photo by Enokson – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Oxford Union, a debating society, recently came under fire for what looked like differing views in how to handle controversial invitations. Reactions surrounding invitations to Julian Assange and Nick Griffin appeared different. Assange was granted a platform, while Griffin was dismissed as not having even been properly invited. Independent student newspaper, Cherwell, quoted an Oxford Union spokesperson: “The Oxford Union does not wish to be associated with the BNP in any way whatsoever. We strongly disagree with their views.”

Assange, however, went on to speak in late January 2013. Former president of the Oxford Union, Izzy Westbury, explained to the Guardian why invitations like these are made:

“Inviting someone controversial – be it in a political sense, a religious one or, in the case of Assange, a legal one – is the best way of showing them for what they really are. When Assange is video-linked to the union, I would expect and encourage questions that challenge both his views and his actions. We should put him in an uncomfortable position – that is the condition of the invite.”

Writing for Cherwell, Alexander Rankine pointed out that such a vocal disapproval of one person and not another is contradictory:

“A Union invitation does not condone. Guests can be cross-examined. The Union is neutral. The idea of the Union adopting a political position or pursuing an agenda goes brazenly against this principle. Now it seems that the Union’s invitations are motivated by political opinions and specific agendas after all. And if that is really the case, then the Assange invitation starts to look more like a vote of support. The Union stops being neutral.”

An invitation is not an entirely neutral move unless you invite the entire population of the world on exactly the same grounds. Invitations arise due to some form of interest or controversy or debate or fame. The matter is complex, so cannot be neutral even if the intention was innocent.

What if a society was more explicit in explaining the reasoning behind an invitation as non-politically as it could? If that happened, the situation is still political, because reasons can be argued and people can disagree with the reasoning given.

Rankine handily wraps up the difficulty and the answer in a single sentence: “I always thought that the Union was meant to be a neutral debating platform.”

That term, “Neutral debating platform“. Can a debating platform ever be entirely neutral?

Debating occurs due to political matters. That’s the point of a debate. Be it a mild discussion, or an emotionally dividing battle, opinions are not all the same.

When Marine Le Pen, president of French political party Front National, spoke at the Cambridge Union, around 200 protesters gathered in opposition. One protester told The Cambridge Student:

“I don’t object to her speaking, but I think the important thing is we make it quite clear there’s opposition. The fact that you can get up and ask her a few questions afterwards is not really enough.”

The term ‘neutral debating platform’ comes into question based not only on the handing out of invitations, but also on the format of the debate.

Yet an invitation is placed in order to bring forth further debate, rather than endorse or congratulate (or, indeed, disagree or disparage) the parties involved. An opportunity for questions may not be seen as enough.

With so much to contend with, inviting a controversial figure cannot be completely neutral. Their views and actions are a necessary part of the package. It’s a big part of why their presence was requested in the first place. Those underlying reasons cannot be temporarily removed for logistical purposes.

Debating societies wouldn’t exist without some sort of controversy. That’s why an attempt to be neutral looks anything but to some. Politics may be intended only once everyone is gathered in the debating hall. However, some decisions are already political long before many realise they are political at all.

How would you handle controversial figures and controversial invitations?