Study Reports Sacrificing Sleep Hurts Academic Achievement

By: Jenna Savage

Depriving yourself of sleep is a bad idea, even if you’re trying to get in a little extra studying or finish a report. We already know that sleep deprivation leads to bad eating habits, which in turn negatively impacts memory and learning. Now, however, there is a new study, which suggests that students who deprive themselves of sleep in favor of studying may find that the effort is counter-intuitive. Rather than helping students do well during lessons and exams the following morning, sacrificing hours of sleep actually leads to an increase in academic difficulties the next day, reports PsychCentral.

The study, facilitated by University of California Los Angeles psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences professor Andrew J. Fuligni, Ph.D., followed 535 high school students. The students were instructed to keep a daily diary that kept track of how many hours they slept each night, how many hours they spent on studying, and whether or not they struggled with anything relating to their academics. Students were also told to indicate if they had trouble with comprehension or if they received a low grade on an assignment, quiz, or exam. They were a diverse group from different backgrounds, cultures, and socioeconomic brackets.

Researchers anticipated that extra hours of studying, which replaced sleep time, would lead to poor comprehension. They expected that students’ abilities to understand assignments and lessons would be impacted by the lack of sleep. Instead, however, researchers found that avoiding sleep to get in extra studying was correlated with poor test, quiz, and assignment grades. Because it cut into sleep time, the process of getting in extra studying was counterproductive.

Fuligini summarized the results by saying that days of reduced sleep and increased studying leads to academic problems. Students may think that they are making a wise choice by dedicating more time to learning, but in reality, they are causing themselves to perform poorly. What they lose in sleep costs them academic performance.

To be successful, students may need to find alternatives to sacrificing sleep. The PsychCentral article quotes Fulgini as suggesting that students sacrifice the time they spend on social activities and keep to a regular study schedule. He also recommends paying attention in class and making the most of in-class time. By making an effort to maintain their sleep schedules, students may find that their academic achievement actually improves – especially if they find ways to get in extra studying without staying up late.

Ultimately, sleep deprivation as a whole comes with a lot of risk, even if the plan is study instead of sleep. Students will have a much easier time achieving their academic goals if they maintain an adequate sleep schedule.