Category Archives: School papers

Observations on my sleeping habits (this post is completely uninteresting)

Over the course of the past two or three weeks, I have been tracking my sleeping habits and certain patterns of activity that I do every day. I tracked eating habits, water consumption, exercise, and caffeine intake. I threw in another variable for fun, to see if I was superstitious enough to believe it affected my sleep and life quality (this being prayer). I also made sure to record each day the hour I went to bed, and the hour I woke up the next morning, then proceeded to write down the quality of sleep I got that night and describe any dreams I remembered.

I will begin by summarizing all the data I collected and how each variable fits into my life. I will end each summary with a conclusion I have made about the effect each variable has on my sleeping habits, and how I can change that. I get an average of 6.8 hours of sleep each night, go to bed around 11:30, and wake up at 6:30 each morning. I rarely take naps, so I won’t even consider that a variable to take into account.

On average, I eat one and a half meals a day. Now, this sounds really bad at first, but let me explain my reasoning. This is quite rebellious of me, because I am in fact, a #rebel, but I think that leading up to my generation, we, as humans, have trained ourselves to eat more than necessary on a daily basis. My daily life consists of sitting in a hard, squeaky plastic chair all day long, or at least for the majority of the day. Yes, I need food to keep my brain activity up, but a nice light brunch sort of meal around 11:30 every morning and a nice big dinner every night seems to keep my brain working just fine. After all, I’m a 3.9 student, so don’t even try to pull that card on me. In my sleep log, I noticed days when I had eaten two big meals, or even three! (This is extremely unusual for me these days) This most often occurred on weekends, when I need more energy to do the things that I have scheduled for those days (because I actually have things scheduled for those days… considering I don’t have to sit in a hard, squeaky plastic chair for 8 hours). So those are my current eating habits, and they are becoming very regular and I am satisfied with them. Based off of my recordings, my eating habits did not seem to affect my sleep quality in any apparent pattern. I did notice one trend, and that was when I ate at least one big meal and one small meal, I recorded my sleep quality as great or excellent, and when I ate only one meal total, I either didn’t record my quality or had simply written, “Good.”  This might tell me that I should at least try to eat two meals a day, and I will have an easier time sleeping. Two meals sounds like a healthy amount, and anything less just sounds unhealthy anyway.

The second variable, water consumption (and I’m only including water; I drink probably three glasses of milk daily in addition), is something I never used to keep track of. After recording my water intake over the past fourteen days, I have decided that drinking a good amount of water every day is extremely important to my daily performance, mood, and sleep quality. I used to complain that I didn’t have time to drink water during the day, but that was simply an excuse for my lack of desire to create a habit of drinking more. Forming a habit is sometimes hard, and it wasn’t until I began my sleep log that I was able to form a good habit of drinking more water during the day. On average, I drink about three glasses of water during the school day, which is awesome! I drank at least two large glasses the majority of the days. On the days I drank 3-5 glasses, my sleep quality was marked as “excellent,” “great” and “awesome.” On the days I drank 2 or less, I simply wrote “good” or even one day when I didn’t remember drinking any, my sleep quality was described as “crap.” Water consumption apparently has a lot to do with the quality of sleep I get, and now that I know that, I can make sure I drink 3 or more glasses every day (along with my three glasses of milk of course #milkaddict).

The third variable, caffeine intake, has probably the most noticeable effect on my sleeping habits. I drank caffeine on seven out of the fourteen days of my log! I was shocked by these results, because I had no idea I was that reliant on caffeine! On the days I drank caffeine, I fell asleep anytime between 11:30 and 3 a.m. On the days when I did not drink caffeine, I fell asleep anytime between 9:00 and 11:30. Now that’s quite the difference. On each of these days, I woke up at 6:30 for school, so I definitely got much less sleep on the days I drank caffeine than on the days I didn’t. I would also like to add that I remember a couple days when I bought a Pepsi, and drank it while doing my homework. I would lose track of time and end up drinking it up until 10 p.m. By that point, it would keep me awake all night! What does this tell me? Cut down on caffeine, and don’t drink it after dinner!

The last two variables, prayer and exercise, were the two from which I didn’t notice any apparent results. The only two days I even got any real exercise were Sunday, November 18th and Monday, November 19th, on which I did a good amount. The days I got exercise happened to be on two out of the four days that I recorded great sleep quality. I don’t know whether this is a mere coincidence, or whether this shows that exercise entails a much better night sleep. Using my common sense and past experience, though, I know that it does, and I should try to get more exercise daily.

I spend a good amount of time each evening praying, this having a lot to do with the fact that I am renewing my Marian consecration this month, and it takes a bit of time. I have been getting anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour of prayer every day. I only recorded these habits to see if I could find some sort of correlation between my prayer habits and sleep quality, to enhance any superstition I might have. I would like to believe that spending a few minutes each night in silence and meditation would help clear my mind of worry and ensure for a good night of sleep, but my data does not reflect this hypothesis. I did not come up with any findings, for my prayer habits and sleep quality are way too random and unrelated. For example, I spent 30 minutes in reflective prayer on November 14th, and that was my worst night. Most other nights I only prayed for 15 minutes, and I had a much better time sleeping. I will conclude that prayer and sleep have nothing to do with each other, and I should just go on with my prayer life for the importance of it in itself.

As you can see, there are many factors that can affect how well you sleep or when you are able to fall asleep, and how well you are able to function the next day. To recap what I have learned, taking my medicine every night does more for me than I may think, two meals a day is a healthy amount of food, at least three glasses of water will keep me going for a day, and caffeine is unnecessary and shouldn’t be consumed in the evening. All of this will ensure for a much better night sleep and a more productive life in the long run.

Now to move on to part two: my dreams. Although I remember having more dreams than usual over the past two weeks, I don’t remember many of them in detail. I am a superstitious person and have a penchant to interpret any dreams I do remember. On the very first night, I dreamt that I picked out a striped shirt from my closet and laid it out to wear the next day. I remember going to bed that night thinking, “Don’t forget to pack clothes for practice tomorrow morning.” When I woke up, I even looked for the striped shirt I dreamt of. It wasn’t lying out, and I laughed. The dream’s purpose was to remind me of my first priority when I woke up, and it worked. The next night, I had a terrifying dream. It was so scary that I woke up feeling shaky, and I didn’t want to move. In the dream, I was babysitting a little girl and a little boy, and I had taken them to a place that looked like a combination of the swamps in Habitat Hollows, the new polar bear learning center and the little forest path at the manatee exhibit (all at the zoo). When we got there to play, it wasn’t long until the lights went out and the forest came alive. The branches started grabbing at the children and it got really intense. We ran out of the exhibit, grabbed our stuff, and I checked my phone. The parents had sent me a text saying they’d be home in two minutes, so I rushed back to get the kids in bed. This is where the dream ended, and after lying in bed for ten minutes soaking in all the action, I realized this probably had everything to do with the fact that I had babysat a little girl and a little boy the week before, and lost track of time while watching Star Wars with them. I almost forgot to put them to bed on time, and then panicked when I saw the parents would be home any minute. A couple days later, I had another interesting dream. I dreamt that two cars on the same day kissed the back of my car and left a couple tiny dents in it. When I woke up I thought it had actually happened. This dream sort of pointed out to me that I have this lingering anxiety that someone will look away from the road and not see me slowing down, and will slightly bump my car. This fear only comes from the fact that I come so close to doing the same thing all the time. One last dream I had was a short image of the new tights I had bought the day before, except instead of being red (their actual color), they were yellow. I woke up upset because I wanted to wear them to school so bad, but we are only allowed to wear red and white tights. Thankfully, a dream doesn’t change reality.

Overall, my dreams did not have any recurring themes or characters or moods. They were all over the place. The only thing similar about them is that they always seem to have some significance regarding events that took place the day before. They also seem to have to do with fears or desires or opinions that I have. I love dreaming, especially on the days where I have all the time in the world to just lay there and lucid dream for a while. (This only happens on Saturday mornings, if that.) At no point during these fourteen days was I able to experience lucid dreaming, but I have experienced it before, and it is so much fun. I would love to remember my dreams more often. They bring out inner truths and memories that I can’t always consciously access. Even if I have the occasional groundless nightmare, dreaming is the one mystery that makes complete sense to me.

distracted driving

Driving while distracted is one of those topics that get me fired up! I think that has something to do with the fact that a distracted couple hit me a month ago, and my car was in the shop for more than a month waiting to get fixed because their extremely stubborn insurance company would not send us the money for the repairs! All is well, though. I have my car back. That doesn’t calm me down enough, considering in the past week, two more distracted drivers have almost hit my car again. I enjoyed reading an article on the Psych Central website about the causes and effects of distracted driving. The article pointed out that research is done on the causes and effects of distraction so often, but the results can only prove so much. It proves to those who drive that common sense in itself would seem to tell them that texting or putting on makeup or reading while driving does not make any sense whatsoever. No matter how many laws and consequences come about, people are still going to do these things. This is why I firmly believe that texting, talking, or even looking away from the road are all seriously big risks to take, especially when driving in the city. I also enjoyed reading about cognitive distractions. I never really put thought into how often I find myself daydreaming and my consciousness drifting. All the sudden, I get really close to the cars in front of me. It makes sense. Because our minds are focused on drifting thoughts, they lose focus on the actual stimuli around us.

Another point that was brought up was the distraction of the radio. I never thought of this as a distraction before. It is not much of a distraction compared to the use of cell phones or eating, but I find that if my radio is turned up really loud, or even slightly loud, I am not as focused on driving as I am when it is at a quiet or moderate volume.

Another thing I’d love to share about my driving experience is a small anecdote about my day at a driving clinic over the summer. It was sponsored by Ford, and it was free! (Let’s be honest, these days, when anything is free, we’re all over it.) So I went, with my mom and brother, by force. I did not want to go. I heard they were going to make me drive fast or do dangerous things that I didn’t trust myself at all with doing. Anyway, when I got there, I met famous movie stunt drivers, and famous race car drivers! I actually got to drive in brand new cars with these awesome drivers! I got to bring the car around to a long runway, where three cones were set up quite a ways down the road. I hit the gas, and went full speed at the cones, as a traffic light on either the right or the left cone turned green right before me, and I had to immediately swerve to whichever side on which the traffic light turned green. It was scary, but awesome. The purpose of the exercise was to teach drivers how to avoid an accident or obstacle without hitting the brakes, specifically on the highway. After that, we moved on to a distracted driving exercise. We had to drive an SUV around tight curves, stop signs, road blocks, detours, and obstacles, while attempting to send a text message. We were supposed to maintain a constant speed, and were not allowed to come to a complete stop. IT WAS HARD. I stopped dozens of times, and failed to stop at a couple of stop signs, and didn’t take the right detour. I missed the detour sign! It was somewhat embarrassing. I did it again while trying to drink out of a water bottle. I came up to a tight curve in the road, and I subconsciously switched my focus onto the road, and dumped the water all over me. I think going to that workshop was one of the best learning experiences of my life. Now, when I see people on the road that aren’t using their common sense, I want to send them to that Ford clinic and teach them a lesson!

A Controversy on Confirmation

Confirmation has been given to students around the ages of thirteen or fourteen for a long time, and there does not seem to be a problem. However, all teens, even myself, will go through a time of questioning and rebellion at age fifteen or sixteen, and may even regret having been confirmed. Confirmation requires an understanding of the Catholic faith and a desire to live one’s faith to its full potential. Until a more mature age, most students are not ready to make this commitment. Although the sacrament of Confirmation is offered to young teenagers, it would be more effective if given to young adults, to ensure more time for preparation and proper decision making.

One of the hardest things about early teenage years is the many hardships and changes that this age group faces. During these years, friends come and go, families fall apart, school becomes much harder and more responsibilities seem to be piled onto the students. It is hard to go through all of this alone. Many parents and students may believe that it is in this time of life especially that one needs to receive guidance from the Church and God’s grace through Confirmation.

Some people believe that it is best for young children or teens to receive Confirmation because by the age of seven, children have already developed the ability to reason and make judgments. By seventh or eighth grade, students are well past the point of being able to make decisions of their own.  Some may also believe that students who are going through the process to receive Confirmation have been properly educated in the faith. Many students attend Catholic schools for at least a year or two, and if not, attend parish schools of religion weekly. In addition, most of the students have grown up in a Catholic family, and are more than ready to confirm their faith and receive the grace to live it out to their fullest potential.

Because many students are more than ready to receive the wonderful sacrament at an earlier age, most parishes suggest that Confirmation be received by a very particular age group. More often than not, Confirmation is only offered to young teenagers, in seventh or eighth grade. However, these students may not be ready to take this step of faith on their own. Even with a sponsor, the student may not be capable of understanding on a personal level how sacred Confirmation is and what it truly means, let alone how it will affect one’s life in the future. The sponsor can teach the confirmand why God created humans: to know, to love, and to serve him. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2304) The sponsor can share his or her Confirmation memories with the confirmand. The sponsor can inspire the confirmand to take the sacrament seriously. The sponsor cannot, however, ensure that the confirmand understands the sacrament and plans on living out one’s faith. Because middle school students may not be ready to take the leap in faith that Confirmation calls for, it would be best for the distribution of the sacrament to be postponed a few more years.

The guidance and support that students need so desperately during their teenage years can be given in more effective ways than through a metaphysical sacrament. For example, support groups in parish communities or schools can be formed and offered to students who are struggling with certain issues. Youth groups are now available to middle school students, and are great opportunities to grow deeper in faith and form positive friendships. It is unnecessary to use Confirmation as the “go to” for grace and love in times of need. Confirmation is so much more, and should only be received when one feels truly ready.

Confirmation is a deeply spiritual experience that requires thought and meditation beyond the capabilities or desires of young teenagers. A study done by psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg in 1969 showed that almost seventy-five percent of all people will remain in a conventional level of thinking, based on conformity to society, throughout their entire lives. Only twenty-five percent will move on to a level in which they apply their own morals and principles to their reasoning, and will not reach this level until the age of sixteen! This proves that most adolescents going into Confirmation have no idea what they really believe for themselves. They are not psychologically capable of making the commitment to the Lord that Confirmation is asking them to make! They need three or four more years to mature and explore what they are interested in. If they already know they are interested in the Catholic faith, then they need the extra three or four years to learn and grow deeper in their relationship with God before they make the full commitment to him. The Sacrament of Confirmation brings a heavy responsibility, yet a wonderful reward to whomever wishes to receive it. This concept is hard to understand; therefore, the commitment is hard to make, especially at a young age.

Confirmation is conventionally given to thirteen or fourteen year old students who may not understand their faith and the lasting grace they are receiving. Faith is a gift from God, given to everyone, yet many people have not willingly received the gift or have yet to discover it. Consequently, the meaning of Confirmation is taken away. Some students only take it because their parents are strong in faith and have felt the duty to raise their children Catholic. Some students go through the sacrament because they see all of their classmates going through with it, and would it not be so much easier to conform than to go through the trouble of making an exception?  Although many of the students have a deep longing for a relationship with God and feel ready for the commitment, many students do not. As Joseph Martos, a sacramental historian at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY, said, “Unless people, when they’re confirmed, are actually making a passage in their life… then there isn’t any meaning in the sacrament of confirmation, because the meaning comes from what’s going on in the person’s life at the time.” A person’s knowledge and desire, or lack thereof,  in receiving Confirmation has a very strong affect on the meaning the sacrament holds, in the same way that a person who had never heard music and had no desire to would experience hearing a symphony differently than a person who had a great knowledge and appreciation of music. Because that person lacks understanding or desire, the symphony sounds like noise that needs to end soon. To the person receiving Confirmation with a lack of understanding and desire, the sacrament looks like a single event or a process to go through. Because the music lover has a knowledge and appreciation for it, the symphony sounds like a beautiful melody that will play over and over inside one’s head for days. To the person receiving Confirmation with a deep knowledge and love of the faith, the sacrament is a journey and a gift that will last until death. Faith is a gift, and unless it is sought and developed before receiving the sacrament of Confirmation, the sacrament will hold no meaning.

Finally, once the age of conformity and conventional thinking passes, there comes an age of rebellious nature. At this age, teens will want to believe anything other than what their parents are asking them to believe. Many stop going to Mass and praying. They consider themselves atheists or Buddhists or whatever else they can think of that is not the common “Catholic” or “Christian.” This is why Confirmation should not be offered at the ages of fifteen or sixteen either. Students need time to pass this stage, and figure out what they want in life. They need time to mature so that they can form clear values and morals for themselves. As stated in the Catechism, “Confirmation is sometimes called the sacrament of Christian maturity.” (CCC 1308) The sacrament of Confirmation is supposed to be given to those who are spiritually mature. Once students reach this point of maturity, they will be capable of making a clear decision in faith, and will convert out of rebellion and back to the church. In this conversion, they will seek the Lord in a more special way than they would have if forced into the sacrament at a young age. Going into the sacrament with confidence and excitement sets one up to come out of the sacrament filled with grace and ready to commit to one’s mission for the Lord. This seems like a much better alternative than going into the sacrament blind and unwilling, and coming out of it having been given a special gift of grace, yet not feeling ready or willing to give back to the Lord.

It would be best for students to wait until a more mature age to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, giving them more time to prepare and to decide if it is what they truly want. Although they face many hardships during early adolescent years, and can easily make decisions for themselves at an early age, Confirmation is more than just a gift of grace or a simple decision between two different cereals. Confirmation is a commitment to live a life of faith in God and to live out the faith in love, service, prayer, and in every aspect of life. This concept may not be easy to grasp in adolescence, especially because of certain patterns of psychological development. To ensure that the sacrament is received willingly and knowledgeably, it is necessary that time is allowed for maturity before the sacrament is given.