Sacrificing Sleep to Study Causes Academic Issues
A recent study by UCLA finds a direct correlation between lack of sleep, due to over-studying the night before, and poor results in school the following day.
“Sacrificing sleep for extra study time is counterproductive,” says Andrew J. Fuligni, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and a senior scientist at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, who worked on the study. “Academic success may depend on finding strategies to avoid having to give up sleep to study, such as maintaining a consistent study schedule across days, using school time as efficiently as possible, and sacrificing time spent on other, less essential activities.”
For 14 days in each of the 9th, 10th, and 12th grades, 535 students from several Los Angeles-area high schools reported in diaries how long they studied, how long they slept, and whether or not they experienced two academic problems — they didn’t understand something taught in class or they did poorly on a test, quiz, or homework. The students represented a mix of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.
Although the researchers expected that extra hours of studying that ate into sleep time might create problems in terms of students’ understanding of what they were taught in class, they were surprised to find that diminishing sleep in order to study was actually associated with doing more poorly on a test, quiz, or homework (the opposite of the students’ intent).
“Lots of things happen during sleep,” explains Helene Emsellem, director of The Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase, Md. “We don’t just physically restore ourselves.” We also process all the information we’ve gathered during the day. “We take the information and organize it and make all the connections,” Emsellem explains. Without adequate sleep, students don’t learn as well. Emsellem has outlined strategies for success in the book Snooze or Lose. This can be helpful for teens — and their parents.
Another researcher Amy Wolfson, a professor of psychology at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass suggests using these tips
1. Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule throughout the week. When your schedule varies by more than 60 to 90 minutes day to day (or school nights vs. weekend nights), this can have negative consequences for academics, mood and health.
2. Try to get 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep a night: Best for middle and high school-age adolescents
3. Keep a regular study schedule: Trying to study late at night interferes with a teen’s ability to get a sufficient amount of sleep, and may create an irregular sleep-wake schedule as noted above.
4. Minimize high-tech in one’s sleep environment and particularly in the hour before trying to fall asleep (such as: text messaging, computer work/games, watching videos, etc.). These activities will also interfere with falling asleep and might wake you up at night if you keep your cellphone on during the night.
5. Eliminate caffeine from your diet, particularly 3 to 5 hours before trying to fall asleep
Listen to “High School Daze: The Perils Of Sacrificing Sleep For Late-Night Studying” as heard on KQED Morning Edition August 21, 2012 here