Health is a constant struggle between doctors’ recommendations and realistic expectations. For example, doctors recommend consuming roughly thirteen cups of water a day. Would you? Not unless the dining halls mandated daily keg stands of water. Even then, I doubt many Yalies would be able to stomach the amount of water doctors suggest.
At Yale, as in life, students are forced to make tough decisions concerning their health. Often times the “recommended” course of action is impractical because your schedule is too busy and the goal is unrealistic. As a result, we only go halfway toward meeting the suggested target, or we seek another option altogether.
Health decisions are especially difficult at Yale because of the overwhelming workload. Last week, in the midst of writing a fifteen-page paper and studying for two other midterms, I encountered one of the biggest health problems Yalies face — sleep deprivation.
As tough as it is to stay on top of schoolwork here, it’s even tougher to get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night. Considering the rigorous demands of the Yale curriculum, getting eight hours of sleep on any given weeknight is nearly impossible. Couple the strenuous academic workweek with social events on the weekend, and the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation continues.
Conceding that the eight-hour recommendation is impractical, Yalies cope with the resulting exhaustion from lack of sleep in different ways. Some turn to coffee; others, to energy drinks. Some try to avoid the caffeine crash by consuming “5-Hour Energy,” while others avoid nutritional supplements altogether and opt for an apple instead.
However, there appears to be a better way to combat the effects of sleep deprivation. Based on research done at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) — a coenzyme found in the muscle tissue of fish, poultry and cattle — may increase mental alertness and concentration more effectively than the old “double-shot-espresso” remedy.
For those curious Chemistry majors reading this, NADH produces energy through a series of reactions with acetyl and oxygen. In addition, the study shows that NADH helps transform an amino acid called tyrosine into dopamine — a chemical in the brain that is involved in mood, energy, sexual drive, concentration, memory and muscle movement.
“When the people took NADH, they performed significantly better overall on a set of mental tests using a measure of speed and accuracy,” Dr. Margaret Moline, the study’s principal researcher, said.
I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is, “No.” Taking NADH does not guarantee that you will ace that Foundations of Cryptography midterm — not even having a copy of the test a week in advance would help. However, if you’re feeling tired and fatigued, NADH can help you focus better and feel more alert.
Like other energy-boosting supplements, NADH can lead to side effects such as insomnia, anxiety and fatigue. However, these side effects only appear when an extremely high dose is administered. Taken in moderation, NADH effectively counteracts the effects of sleep deprivation.
That said, sleep is still important. But when eight hours of sleep is an unrealistic goal, NADH is a great alternative to coffee and energy drinks — a kind of shortcut to improving the quality of a sleep-deprived life.
In the heart of midterm season, the benefits of NADH are especially valuable. So before purchasing that “Red Eye” from the café in Bass Library, consider giving NADH a try. You may not get a perfect score on your midterm, but I guarantee you’ll be wide awake for it.
If you’re interested in NADH, check out vitaminshoppe.com or your local health and nutrition store.