Too Much of A Good Thing

It’s commonplace at Andover to compare sleep schedules. A stream of numbers will undoubtedly follow the slightest mention of how many hours you got the night before. Each figure is smaller than the last until it seems like nobody on campus actually sleeps. Everyone vies for a lower score like it’s a game of golf until eventually, the competition ends, and victory settles on the person who stayed up working on a last-minute essay or project. However, there’s never a prize in these competitions, not even the pride of winning. Andover’s working culture has misled the student body. Hours of sleep sacrificed should not be seen as an indication of hard work. In fact, we should be working, sleeping, and playing all in moderation. 

Moderation is the act of avoiding excess, and it should be applied to all areas of our lives. Encouraging students to study in moderation is not as counterintuitive as it seems. “Excess” is defined by the individual. Therefore, given that you have a clear direction in mind, moderation can help Andover students to balance their busy schedules. When we start to assess how we spend our time and effort and define the meaning of excess for ourselves, the hours in a day will naturally settle where it’s most productive. We can minimize time wasted and hopefully get through the term without trading as many hours of sleep for study.

Life at Andover does not wait for you to catch up. There are twenty-four hours in a day and, no matter how much I want the time to freeze, the clock will keep ticking by. There’s a never-ending stream of tasks, content, and media that is competing for my attention. With an allowance of 168 hours a week in my wallet, I can only choose a few things I want to spend my time on. My priority at Andover is to be a student, so classes and homework take up most of my time. Whenever I’m not studying, I’m probably playing sports, doing clubs, spending time with friends, or resting, but they are all no less important than academics. Excess of any one of these things would have a cascading effect. Too much time spent on academics will cause burnout — its recovery time probably exceeding the time it would’ve taken to properly rest. Too much time spent playing sports will cause injury and even prevent improvement — training being equal parts pushing your body and giving it the necessary time and food to heal. Too much time spent on clubs or friends would prevent me from fulfilling my obligations as a student. At the same time, too little sleep would prevent me from fully engaging with anything. This careful balancing and counterbalancing act is solely supported by the practice of moderation.

While assessing your priorities and time spent on each part of your life, it seems tempting to take hours from sleep. After all, if you sleep less you can just sleep more the day after right? No, there isn’t a single part of life that isn’t reliant on sleep. Acting as a prerequisite for any fruitful use of time, sleep is a priority that outranks anything else. Regardless of how much more important other matters may seem, sleep is as non-negotiable as paying rent. We’re all just tenets in our bodies, living at the cost of seven-eight hours per day. Rent is taken and used to maintain and develop the building. Occasionally staying up when you’re short on time is not too consequential, but consistent sleep debt will result in compounding damage. Not sleeping and neglecting the upkeep of this “home” can cause mood swings, heart disease, or even early death. When you only have one body to live in, it would be wise to avoid eviction at all costs. For many of us, sleep, most likely, will benefit the most from the moderation of other parts of our lives.

It is a misconception that being productive and resting are mutually exclusive. Defining what moderation is for you is not an easy process — it requires constant trial and error. With each hour you spend on one aspect of your life, the additional benefit of investing more time lessens. Identifying when it’s more productive to spend time elsewhere is the essence of moderation. If studying more isn’t getting you anywhere, you might want to consider spending time on something else, maybe even taking a break.