Updated: Dec 20, 2021
It’s pretty common for students to sacrifice their sleep to cater to their academic duties. While staying up late at night or even all night to complete important academic work gives one a sense of fulfillment, it is outweighed by the harm done to the body and mind.
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In a study conducted in 2019, wearable activity trackers were distributed to 100 students in an introductory college chemistry class-- Introduction to Solid State Chemistry-- at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, allowing for multiple sleep measures to be correlated with in-class performance on quizzes and midterm examinations. These one hundred volunteers were selected from a subset of students who volunteered among 370 students enrolled in the class. It was thought, naturally, better quality, longer duration, and greater consistency of sleep correlated with better grades.
Contrary to popular belief, however, there was no relation between sleep measures on the night before a test and performance on that test. Instead, sleep quality for the month and the week before a test correlated with better grades. While pulling an all-nighter before a test may not really hamper an individual’s performance on the test, it paves a way for prolonged sleep deprivation, which has many adverse effects. Consequences of insufficient sleep include excessive daytime somnolence, depressive state of mind, impaired daytime performance, and for students, usually poor academic performance.
According to research (The interaction between sleep quality and academic performance) conducted in 2012, academic performance is linked to sleep quality, as well as stress prior to the exam. This study concluded that students who sleep poorly do not necessarily receive low grades, as long as they have their stress under control.
Perceived stress has been identified as one of the major causes of students receiving low grades. A stressed individual can’t get proper sleep prior to an exam. Extreme stress combined with an unrested mind is the worst state to be in during an exam. Similarly, insufficient sleep may raise the stress level of an individual, causing last-minute panic and poor performance.
Even if an individual manages to do well on their exams after prolonged sleep deprivation, they can’t undo the effects of insufficient sleep on their body and mind easily. Catching up on your sleep is more vital than many people realize. If you get less than six hours of sleep a night for a week, you’ll rack up a full night’s sleep debt, which is too much to make up for with a few hours extra sleep on the weekend. Failing to get proper sleep for a prolonged period of time causes chronic sleepiness, which slows down your thought process, impairs your memory and makes learning difficult. It also causes a decline in immune power, and increases risk of heart diseases and poor physical balance. There’s no way that a person suffering from chronic sleepiness can have sufficient energy to properly fulfill their academic duties, including maintaining a decent grade.
Thus, a person’s sleep quality affects their academic performance directly or indirectly. Even with an academic performance out of the picture, sleep is a necessity to continue our life processes. So, it’s best for everyone to make sleep their number 1 priority.