Joyce Chen ‘23
College students are known for being sleep-deprived, sometimes sleeping for less than four hours a day or none at all. However, a lack of sleep can result in serious health consequences, such as a weakened immune system that makes people prone to illnesses. Recent research shows that sleep can improve concentration, energy, and mental and physical health in general.
To explore this idea further, researchers under Dr. Kana Okano at MIT looked into the relationships between sleep patterns and in-class performance, such as grades and scores on exams. They selected 88 college students in a chemistry class and instructed them to use Fitbits, wearable activity trackers that would measure their sleep quality by monitoring their heart-rates and movements during sleep. These measurements would then be correlated with their performance on exams and quizzes. For the rest of the semester, the team of researchers collected data of the students’ sleep patterns. The studies revealed that on average, the students went to bed at 1:54 a.m. with a standard deviation of 1 hour per student, and woke up at 9:17 a.m. with a standard deviation of 54 minutes. Overall, the average amount of sleep that a student received was 7 hours and 8 minutes with a standard deviation of 41 minutes per student. In regards to the differences in sleep quality amongst males and females, females had better sleep quality, although the differences between the two genders were not significant. The correlation between sleep duration and quality were stronger in males, indicating that males should receive longer hours of sleep and have a relatively consistent sleep schedule for better sleep quality. In general, better grades correlated with longer hours of sleep and greater sleep quality. Moreover, the sleep measures accounted for 24.44% of in-class performance on quizzes and exams. Although the sleep duration the night prior to an exam did not have any correlation to better performance, it does impact overall in-class performance over the course of a month. This would mean that instead of sleeping for a longer period of time the night before an exam, students should receive consistent amounts of sleep over a month in order to improve their grades.
Contrary to what many college students have attempted, it is highly recommended that students should have a stable sleep schedule in order to attain higher scores on tests. As this study has proven, better sleep quality and longer hours of sleep allow for students to have heightened levels of concentration and memorization. Instead of pulling all-nighters, perhaps it is best for college students to start going to bed earlier.
- K. Okano, et al., Sleep quality, duration, and consistency are associated with better academic performance in college students. npj Science of Learning, (2019). doi: 10.1038/s41539-019-0055-z
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