Revision cramming: Sacrificing sleep to study ‘will make you much worse at exams and homework’
Regardless of how much you study each day, if you sacrifice sleep in order to cram a little bit more, you are going to struggle the following day, say researchers.
The University of California team added that, because students tend to increasingly sacrifice sleep time for studying in the later years of education, this negative dynamic becomes more and more prevalent over time.
Those are the findings of a new study that focused on daily and yearly variations of students who sacrifice sleep to study. The research was conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and appears in the journal Child Development.
Andrew J. Fuligni, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral science, said: ‘Sacrificing sleep for extra study time is counterproductive.
‘Academic success may depend on finding strategies to avoid having to give up sleep to study, such as maintaining a consistent study schedule across days, using school time as efficiently as possible, and sacrificing time spent on other, less essential activities.’
DON’T SKIP SLEEP – STUDY SMART
Last minute cramming is unlikely to do you much good in times of need, but these tips may help:
1) Teach someone else: Discussing a topic or tutoring a classmate can help you get a grip on the material
2) Study in chunks – cramming information in hour after hour is an inefficient way to study. Instead, short bursts followed by a break is said to be a better system
3) Find a calm, comfortable spot to study in regularly, to help get you in the mode to revise
4) Look for metaphors when studying complicated subjects to help you understand the relationship between concepts
For 14 days in each of the 9th, 10th, and 12th grades, 535 students from several Los Angeles-area high schools reported in diaries how long they studied, how long they slept, and whether or not they experienced two academic problems – for instance, not understanding something taught in class, or they performing poorly on a test or homework.
The students represented a mix of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.
Although the researchers expected that extra hours of studying that ate into sleep time might create problems in terms of students’ understanding of what they were taught in class, they were surprised to find that diminishing sleep in order to study was actually associated with doing more poorly on a test – the opposite of the students’ intent.
‘As other studies have found, our results indicated that extra time spent studying cuts into adolescents’ sleep on a daily basis, and it is this reduced sleep that accounts for the increase in academic problems that occurs after days of increased studying,’ Fuligni explained.
‘Although these nights of extra studying may seem necessary, they can come at a cost.’
Fuligni said the study’s findings do not suggest that teens should spend less time studying overall, but that those teens who give up sleep to study more than usual are more likely to have academic problems the following day.