Sleep is a fundamental part of learning. This week I’m going to be sharing a guest post from Christine Huegel of Mattress Advisor. She goes over the science and art of taking advantage of sleep for better grades.
If you want to dig into the some of the science behind this, check out this post from Harvard.
Sleep & Academic Performance
Many students don’t get enough sleep when studying for important exams, and make staying up all night, taking as much information as they can, a priority. However, an all-nighter, or any sleep disruption, prior to an important test, presentation, or lab, is one of the worst things for your performance. Lack of sleep has proven to have a major impact on a student’s academic performance — which isn’t surprising as sleep allows your brain to store memories and process important information learned from the day.
In this article, we take a look at the role sleep plays on a student’s academic performance, including some tips on how you can improve your sleep habits to get better results in your studies.
How Sleep Affects Academics and Learning
1. Poor Sleep Leads to Poor Concentration
If you want to improve your focus, the first thing you need to do is make sure that you’re getting enough quality sleep each night. Approximately 1 in 3 Americans admit to not getting enough
sleep each night which is known to slow reaction time, make it more difficult to focus, and decreases your ability to synthesize new ideas.
2. More Stress
Lack of sleep can be very harmful to a student who is exposed to many stressors over the course of a semester – whether it’s balancing their grades and social life, or adjusting to the expectations of a new year, stress can be very prevalent amongst college students.
Without proper sleep, you might be more susceptible to react negatively to stressors—even the minor ones. Experts from Mattress Advisor explained that the reason for this link between sleep and mood is due to a part of your brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for processing your emotions. When you experience a lack of sleep, your amygdala sees more activity, and the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision making and emotional control, sees less activity. This causes your emotions to be heightened.
3. Sleepiness affects your memory
As you sleep, memories are reactivated, and connections between your brain are strengthened. Without enough sleep you are more likely to be forgetful.
The way our brains learn new information involves three phases. The first stage is acquisition, where the brain is presented with the information. Next, is the consolidation stage, where the memory of this new information is reinforced. The third stage is the recall stage. This is where we’re able to access the information later on.
The stages of acquisition and recall take place while we are awake, but the consolidation stage only happens when we’re in REM sleep. This means that your memory recall, as well as your ability to maintain high levels of concentration, suffer greatly when you don’t get enough sleep.
As you can see, cramming through the night is not the way to go if you want to see improved results in your academic performance. You need to get enough quality sleep to turn the information you learned into solid memories that you can have easy access to at a later time.
Tips to Improve Sleep Habits
Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. If you feel that you’re not getting enough sleep, here are some tips to help you improve your sleep habits:
- Go to bed a little earlier than usual to give yourself a better chance of getting a full night’s sleep.
- Make sure your bedroom is just for sleeping, not for studying, talking on the phone, or watching TV.
- Limit the number and duration of naps you take. Don’t nap for more than an hour and never after 3 pm.
- Get up at the same time every morning – even on weekends in order to keep your internal clock regular.
There’s no arguing with the facts: sleep plays a vital role in your academic success. Use the tips outlined above to improve your sleep habits. This will help you strengthen and consolidate memories to give you the best chance of success.
Let me tell you (an inappropriate) true story…
It was high school Spanish class…
I was a Senior in a class of Sophomores. There was one other Senior in the class. Best of all –
She was smokin’ (as the old folk say.) She was gorgeous. 10 out of 10. Tight jeans. And she always sat right in front of me in class (gulp.)
We were the only Seniors in the class. By default… that made me the coolest guy there… And trust me… I’m never the coolest guy there.
But we’d talk. Sometimes in class she’d lean over. I’d continue to pretend me importa la espanol stuff pero… Seriousamente… 😛
Sure… I’d show up to class. But my brain rarely stuck around for the lecture. And that’s why you might not be surprised I was getting a C- in class.
It’s funny how that stuff that distracted me in highschool wasn’t so problematic in college where I took a double course load and still scored near the top of my class…
You don’t need to be perfect to score near perfect.
You just need to know how…