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And That’s a Nap…I Mean Wrap!

Sleep is everywhere.  It’s in your room after a late night of studying, it’s inevitably on the comfy chair in the library mid-type of an exhausting paper, it’s the kid snoring in front of you in lecture.  I’ve observed this tendency of students to arrive to class and make the trek to the library even when they desperately need sleep to continue functioning.  These people eventually give in to the enticing nap facedown on their laptop keyboards.  But why don’t we choose to take that short nap to power us through the work we need to complete, rather than forcing ourselves to stay awake at all costs?

People always wonder why some students show up to class every other day only to fall asleep for the entirety of the remaining lecture.  I think this is because none of us intend to take a nap in our seats; we genuinely go into class hoping to remain awake to soak in the new material.  The majority of students at Penn State are extremely hardworking and driven, which could in part be our sleepy downfall.  Those students who appear to be lazy and dozing off instead of taking notes may have merely been the ones staying up all hours of the night to perfect a presentation for a class they are more passionate about or pertaining to their major.

It’s hard not to judge those who seem to choose to fall asleep rather than pay attention (we are often even hard on ourselves when we catch our heads bobbing).  Yet we’re all going through a hectic time, where balancing activities and time management skills have come to the forefront of our lives like never before, and it takes adequate time to get properly adjusted.  Next time, we just need to be sure to plan our weeks in advance and realize that when sleep is put on the backburner, at least make naps a priority.

Environmental Degradation In North America

As we have looked at the environmental issues facing various other continents around the world and analyzed initiatives in place to solve these, we turn to our own continent of North America to see how these problems are personally affecting us.

Climate change is a common environmental factor across the globe and especially pertinent on the continent of North America.  According to the article “Conservancy” on the website nature.org, “The United States (a major component of North America) is the second largest emitter, after China, of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.”  This issue is especially troubling for our nation due to a lack of initiatives currently, as the U.S. is one of only two countries that have not yet signed the Kyoto Protocol.

As a continent, we are also a large source of energy consumption, as we are constantly utilizing the newest technological gadgets and culturally wasting energy by taking elevators instead of using the stairs.  As stated on the site, “…about 86% of all types of energy used…are derived from fossil fuel consumption that is closely linked to greenhouse gas emissions.”

While deforestation and mining are also troubling issues in environmental degradation, species conservation is largely a positive movement throughout North America.  Invasive species are causing economic damages estimated at $120 billion a year.  Soon after first human settlement, many plant and animal species became extinct, including the North American megafauna; however, we have been proactive about this cause.  For the United States, “saving the Bald Eagle…from extinction was a notable conservation success.”

The reliance on nuclear energy has also caused accidents in the United States: most notably, the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.  As for initiatives to improve this environmental situation, nuclear safety in the US is governed by federal regulations and is continuously studied by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Pesticide use is also a major factor influencing environmental degradation on this continent.  According to the website, “…about a quarter of pesticides used are in houses, yards, parks, golf courses, and swimming pools.”  As a result, in 1947 the United States Department of Agriculture was given responsibility of regulating pesticides with the passing of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

Issues themselves including rapid population increase are resulting in other harmful environmental effects.  One of these being waste, “…Americans generate more waste than any other nation in the world with 4.5 pounds of municipal solid waste per person per day…” Most of this is due to residential garbage, while another large component in the United States is electronic waste.  “Each year over 3.2 million tons of electronic waste is in US landfills,” of which a large portion of the waste includes computers, monitors, and televisions.

These pressing environmental issues are problems we face daily in North America.  Without initiatives and solutions brought to the forefront, this natural degradation will only worsen.  Similar issues are being dealt with around the world, but until collective solutions can be established globally, cohesive progress to decrease environmental degradation will not occur in the foreseeable future.

Environmental Degradation in South America

South America is yet another continent troubled by many of the same familiar environmental issues we’ve seen affecting other continents so far, as well as additional degradation concerns unique to their area.  On this continent, levels of motor vehicle use and overall urbanization are much higher than in most developing regions around the world.  According to the article, “Environmental Problems in South America” at the website http://bio.sunyorange.edu, “almost ¾ of residents live in urban areas,” which is largely contributing to air pollution.  Unlike the United States’ implementation of the Clean Air Act, this area does not have an initiative in place to improve air quality at the moment.  As stated in the post, “more than 100 million people reside in areas where air pollution…exceeds limits set by the World Health Organization;” correlating with the increase in asthma rates.

This continent is also dealing with the issue of lack of access to clean water.  In many areas around the world including South America, water is being extracted from the ground at rapid rates, causing dramatic drops in the levels of underground aquifers.  Many areas that desperately need water for drinking and irrigation suffer water shortages during times of drought.

Another pertinent negative environmental occurrence involves eutrophication.  The amount of oxygen dissolved in water can prove a limiting factor for fish communities, which in turn can create a lack of food supply for people who rely on fish to eat or sell.  As the amount of dissolved oxygen continues to drop in bodies of water in South America, fewer and fewer fish can inhabit these waters.  According to the website, “Eutrophication…is a type of pollution which adds nutrients to water where were in short supply.  This occurs when fertilizers (containing nitrates and phosphates) enter the water through agricultural runoff and when the water is polluted with detergents (which contain phosphates).”  This detrimental environmental phenomenon results in the disappearance of many desirable species of fish.

Another issue is simply that of disease.  A number of illnesses can be transmitted through water, such as cholera, typhoid fever, giardia, hepatitis, and polio.  The article goes on to mention, “according to the UN, dirty water and water-born diseases cause 25,000 deaths daily in the developing nations…”

Yet an additional environmental problem lacking initiatives for improvement in South America right now involves ocean dumping and fisheries.  8 million tons of toxic wastes are estimated to be dumped in the oceans each year, with this continent as a significant source of overall ocean pollution.  This continues to occur even though the ocean is such an important food source: “8 million tons of seafood a year provide 16% of the world’s protein.”

South America is reeling from shortages in fuel wood and biofuels, as well.  Biofuels in fact present a potential solution for a few of the environmental issues in this area, as “sugar cane, sugar beets, and corn are the primary crops used to generate ethanol” (rather than depleting precious fossil fuels).  With continuing environmental degradation ranging from deforestation and loss of biodiversity to population growth, there is certainly an alarming lack of reforms that should be brought to the forefront in order to improve the overall wellbeing of the continent of South America.

Napping Alternatives

Sometimes there’s just no time to fit in a nap when you’re ready to take on an all-nighter.  Knowing there isn’t time to spare to get some proper sleep, there are some tactics you can use as alternatives to napping to stay awake.

One idea is to get up and move around.  Taking just a short walk will pump oxygen throughout your veins, muscles, and in your brain to make you naturally more energized.  A study highlighted in an online article called “Coping with Excessive Sleepiness” described a study in which tired participants could choose to eat a candy bar or take a 10-minute walk.  Although many thought the candy bar would provide a quick energy boost, most of those who consumed the food were more tired and had less energy an hour later compared to those who took a walk (increasing energy for 2 hours afterward).

Another trick is to give your eyes a break to avoid fatigue.  Continuously staring at a computer screen worsens sleepiness by causing eyestrain, so periodically looking away can ease this and keep you from getting more tired.  You can also try eating a healthy snack, such as peanut butter, yogurt, or nuts to get a necessary boost of energy.  Some people find it helpful to start a conversation with someone else to wake up their minds when all other techniques fail.  Turning up the lights in a room can increase alertness as well.

You may also try switching tasks periodically to stimulate your mind.  Monotonous work has been shown to increase tiredness as opposed to frequently changing your activity or surroundings.  If you know in advance you’re heading into a long night, you might want to lightly work out beforehand, as exercise has been shown to be more effective at reducing fatigue than some medications.  If a nap just won’t fit, these techniques may come in handy to boost you through the studying and lack of sleep that’s ahead.

Snacks that Make You Sleepy

Most people are familiar with the food coma that swiftly sets in after stuffing your face with turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, yet few know about the many other times of snacks that will leaving you craving a nap upon consumption.  For instance, jellybeans (which seem as though they should be filled with sugars to make you more alert) in fact are associated with making people more tired.  The rational for this and many other types of food is that carbohydrates that break down more quickly during digestion generally have higher glycemic rankings.  These specific foods speed up the release of serotonin and tryptophan, which are brain chemicals that promote sleep.

Another food that will make you sleepy in half the typical time if you eat it within 4 hours of your usual bedtime is plain or French bread.  Other common snacks such as rice cakes, pretzels, corn chips, and Saltine crackers make the list as well.  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day?  Well, eating some brands of cereal (like cornflakes, Grapenuts Flakes, and Golden Grahams) will not prove as successful in giving you the necessary energy to jumpstart your morning.

Potatoes, ranging from mashed to French to baked, and instant rice are both heavy in carbohydrates and heavy on your eyelids as you begin to drowse off after eating them.  Other unexpected additions on the list due to their healthy source of natural sugars and common use in caffeinated drinks, watermelon and honey are also known to contribute to feelings of sleepiness.  You should make a note to steer clear of these items if you need an immediate boost of energy before a test or upcoming activity.  Naps are the perfect solution to any problem, so be prepared to inevitably take a short snooze after eating these foods.

The Monophasic Mammal

According to the National Sleep Foundation found at the site http://sleepfoundation.org, “more than 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers…” This means that most mammal species around the globe sleep for short periods throughout the day.  Humans are in the minority.  Due to our routines of dividing our days into two distinct periods of wakefulness and sleep, we are considered monophasic sleepers.  Studies have shown that it is not clear this is the natural sleep pattern for humans, just that we have adopted this practice and stuck to it.  Evidenced by the fact that young children and the elderly regularly take naps, it seems intrinsic in human nature to rely on a midday snooze to function efficiently.

There are three different types of naps one can take.  The “planned nap” is one in which you decide to sleep before you actually get very tired.  This is often employed when a person knows he or she will be up late studying or working on a project.  There is the “emergency nap” as well.  This occurs when a person is suddenly tired and needs to sleep in order to continue functioning.  Also, the “habitual nap” is one that a person takes at the same time every day, which is often seen with children that nap at the same time each afternoon or a student who sleeps for a short time every day after class for instance.

The United States as a nation is increasingly becoming more sleep deprived at an alarming rate.  Our busy lifestyles and driven work ethics are keeping us from getting a solid night of sleep, let alone fitting an adequate nap into our daily lives.  These short naps, however, can seriously improve mood, alertness, and performance, and should be taken into account for improving efficiency in the workplace.

Environmental Degradation in Europe

Throughout history, Europe has been seen as a somewhat invincible colonizing power with lasting cultural and political influences throughout the rest of the world.  Yet even this continent is susceptible to and currently coping with the civic issue of increased environmental degradation.  According to “Environmental Topics” on the European Environment Agency website (http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes), air pollution is a major factor negatively affecting the area.  “Air pollutant concentrations are still too high…[and] a significant proportion of Europe’s population lives in cities where exceedances of air quality standards occur.”  The article also mentions that urban transport accounts for 70% of the pollutants and 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions from European road transport.

Biodiversity of species throughout the globe has a huge impact on the natural world as well as the wellbeing of humans in general.  Yet in Europe, there is currently a steady loss in biodiversity which is creating major changes to the natural habitats of many keystone species.  As stated in the article, “Europe’s high resource consumption results in an ecological footprint that impacts biodiversity and ecosystem services on the continent and elsewhere in the world.”  With more than 10,000 non-native species now present in Europe (10-15% of which are considered to have negative ecological effects), the issue of biodiversity is a major cause of environmental degradation on this continent at this time.

The factor of steady climate change is also one facing Europe currently, as temperatures are rising, glaciers and snow are melting, the average global sea level and temperatures are rising; resulting in “hazards such as increasing floods and droughts becoming more frequent and intense.”  Agencies in Europe are working adamantly to combat these environmental issues and attempt to find solutions, as “The EU is making good progress towards achieving its emission reduction targets…with an independent target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2020…”  These efforts should succeed in the lessening of the negative impacts of not only climate change, but a number of other environmental issues as well.

Land is a finite resource and “Europe is one of the most intensively used continents on the globe” with the highest share of land used for production systems, infrastructure, and settlement.  This much amount of land usage yields significant impacts on the quality of ecosystems and life.  Due to this excessive building on natural lands, “certain regions of Europe are affected by soil salinization, acidification, landslides, or desertification” as a result.  These environmental repercussions lead to even further economic consequences as well.

Another major environmental degradation issue facing Europe currently is that of limited water resources.   The European Environment Agency notes that “removing pollution is expensive, uses energy and chemicals, and results in the generation of wastes.”  Therefore, a more efficient potential solution would be to control pollutants at the source to decrease their discharge into freshwater and reduce the need for treatment techniques.

All of these major factors negatively affecting varying aspects of the environment in Europe are creating causal reactions that often influence the daily lives of humans.  These can all be reduced and potentially one day solved as more people become knowledgeable of the degradation occurring all around them.

   

Environmental Degradation in Australia

Although many only know Australia for it’s temperate zones where golden skin is prevalent, coastal ecosystems suitable for a thriving surfing culture, and highly enviable accents, this continent is currently facing various pertinent environmental degradation issues.  Their wetlands enduring serious environmental turmoil, there have recently been dramatic declines in the abundance of many species, as well as a notable scarcity of natural resources as vital as water.

According to “Environmental Problems in Australia” on wwf.panda.org, there are a multitude of pressing issues plaguing the natural components of the area.  This first factor takes form with large-scale deforestation.  When forests and vegetation are cut, there is a great increase in the salinity of the soil in that area as a result.  The draining of this saline water can then go on to affect downstream or downslope water quality.  The article discusses that “around 7% of the agricultural area of western Australia is suffering from this problem following deforestation.”  Studies have shown that these soils in the wet tropics have limited ability to recover from deforestation, which is causing an estimated $1 billion annually in land degradation costs as a result.

Another major environmental issue pertaining to Australia is agricultural clearing and overgrazing.  Due to clearing of agricultural land, “around 13% of Australia’s original vegetation has been removed since European settlement.”  This problem of overgrazing is negatively affecting the biodiversity of species on this continent, and currently less than 2% of the original grasslands remain in the temperate ecosystems.  Promoting susceptibility to desertification as well as erosion, it is also a major cause of the spread of invasive plants in these habitats.

Overfishing and illegal fishing are also creating noticeable strain on the environmental stability of this continent.  Some areas in Australia have low biological productivity (so fish stocks do not regenerate as quickly) and paired with intensive fishing efforts by recreational and commercial fisheries, these waters are troubled by a major depletion in fish stocks as of late.  A study taken in 2005 assessed that “17 of 82 species…in Australian waters were classified as overfished.”

Perpetuating the environmental degradation in the area, the introduction of exotic species to the continent has caused a variety of new problems.  As stated in the article, “It is estimated that Australia gains around 20 new pests or diseases each year” (one better known example being the cane toad).  These foreign animals are responsible for local extinctions and significant reductions in the populations of native species by means of predation and habitat modification, which is negatively affecting the balance of these niches.  Exotic weeds and 2,500 introduced plants have also invaded every part of the landscape; adding additional pressure to the ecosystems.

Other environmental issues rampant on the continent of Australia include pollution and infrastructure development.  According to the online article, “Modeling predictions estimate that each year almost 19,000 tons of phosphorous and 141,000 tons of nitrogen are discharged to rivers flowing to the coast.”  A major concern is this area is also simply an increasing population growth of human inhabitants along the coastline.  Massive metropolitan centers are continually being formed, which is causing an unforeseen population density.

Social Napping (v.)

A wise woman once tweeted upon her sudden stroke of genius: “social napping: taking a nap with your door open to maximize exposure to other people.”  Although this far from mastermind person was none other than myself in the early days of my freshman year, I do believe I invented a term for a peculiar, yet intriguing form of slumber.  This concept of social napping was initially dreamt up when I felt as though I was missing out on opportunities to be spending crucial time with new friends while taking a nap after class most days (essentially being antisocial by choosing to spend the afternoon hour unconscious).  So I decided to leave my door slightly propped open when I embarked on my mission to rejuvenate and catch up on some z’s.  This way if a friend were to come to my door, she could see I was in my room and could still wake me up to relay an invitation to get food or go to a meeting.

I acknowledge that this is extremely weird.  I really have no logic to properly rationalize the fact that I was leaving my room wide open for some anonymous dweller of Atherton to walk in unbeknownst while I was fast asleep.  Yet I continued to partake in social napping regularly because the tension I felt about deliberately choosing not to interact with my friends was too gripping.  I wanted to be able to tell myself that if someone really needed me, I could easily be reached with just a slight push of the door and nudge of my shoulder.  Soon after the creation of this phenomenon, the sign on my door read, “Home to the Social Nappers,” and thus a famous site and tourist attraction was born right off of College Ave, as well as a noteworthy tweet. Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 11.05.57 AM

Afternoon Siestas and All-nighters

Sleeping is universal.  No matter what language you speak, what religion you practice, what politics you favor, or what time zone you live in, all people rely on sleep for survival.  However, in some parts of the world the practice of sleeping is a part of their culture and tradition.

Let’s take for example Spain, where proper napping is so important to their society that it has become a part of their daily lives.  A siesta by definition is a short nap taken in the early afternoon, often following the midday meal.  This concept of a siesta is the traditional daytime sleep in Spain and many other Hispanic American countries (especially those where the weather is warm).  It is accustomed that during the hottest hours of the day, school is temporarily released and storeowners as well as places of businesses close their shops and buildings in order to go home for a break to nap.  The heat in these areas dramatically reduces work productivity around this time of day, so the society collectively decides to all rest during the same time in order to ultimately increase efficiency when continuing with work after the snooze.

Other countries such as the United States though are not so culturally accepting of the importance of naps.  Our society strongly values consistent hard work and achievement (allowing ourselves little time for respite).  We encourage staying up all hours of the night and relying on caffeine in order to finish projects and assignments at all costs.  This concept of a siesta is almost joke-able and hard to believe in a country that is always pushing our bodies past the limits to reach certain goals in our careers.  Although this idea of scheduling our lives around napping may seem absurd, it is important to note the health benefits and rejuvenation that these people receive as a result to finish out their workdays.