Are you a student? Are you struggling to sleep? Then your academic performance will be suffering. This article on HuffPost outlines the impacts of lack of sleep on academic outcomes and makes for some interesting reading.
As many of you know, when you are a student there are often many long nights spent ‘cramming’ for exams and doing last minute essays. For a long time this has just been an accepted part of academic life but as the science community have honed in on this area they have uncovered something very interesting: it is far better to have a good night’s sleep before an exam than it is to spend all night cramming for it. In fact, the process of staying up late and cramming has the exact opposite effect from what you would want. You are able to remember less than if you had stopped studying at a sensible time and had just gone to bed instead.
In this study the researchers had around 43,0000 students who were enrolled in the spring 2009 American College Health Association's National College Health Assessment (NCHA). Once they had controlled for a range of issues including people with clinical depression, feelings of isolation or any ongoing chronic health issues, the study found that people who were not sleeping well were likely to see their grades suffer as well.
Roxanne Prichard, who is an associate professor of psychology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota and was involved in the study explains that around 60 per cent of the participants had some kind of sleep problem. She goes on to state that “Sleep really isn't systematically approached in a way that could have major economic benefits to both the students and the universities in terms of increased retention.”
The big problem, as she explains it, is that students have a range of different pressures on them. They are stressed about academic performance, they have a new freedom to go and do what they want, there is issues with alcohol and drugs and then there are the new ‘romantic’ entanglements. All of this adds up to some seriously tired students. Of all the students at university, those with the worst sleep rates are the first years, which adds up as they have not yet adjusted to these new factors.
Prichard proposes that if universities reduced course load by one course per year they would see a dramatic rise in pass rates, with the figure being as high as 14 per cent. She also believes that universities need to start focusing on the sleep health of their students, she says. “I don't think sleep problems are showing up on the questionnaire intake forms for health services, and that could be explaining a lot of the other problems that you see showing up. Recurrent illness could be sleep problems.”
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