We all know that we function better on a good night’s sleep. So why do college students cram during finals – often getting just 5 hours (or less) sleep per night to get in those few extra hours of studying? Most incorrectly believe that staying up late will give them the time they need to comprehend more data to improve their test scores.
To challenge this belief, Michael Scullin, director at Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Lab, gave students extra credit points on his final exam if they slept for at least 8 hours per night during finals week. Wearing Fitbit-type devices to detect sleeping patterns, the 24 students who got the extra sleep outperformed their classmates who crammed and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning during finals week.
With better memory, mood, and health, students found that their brains worked better while taking the exams. In other words, spending ridiculous hours studying material with sleep deprivation doesn’t produce better grades. It’s not the quantity of time spent studying but the quality of time. With a rejuvenated brain and body after a good night’s sleep (minimum 8 hours), students can read questions with more comprehension and answer them with better clarity.
Students will need to establish a healthy sleep culture to accommodate socializing with friends, watching YouTube videos and playing games, and studying for exams. Perhaps creating a routine that includes 8 hours of sleep that creates this balance will give students the sleep they need with blocks of time for studying and friends.