By Mihika Badjate
The clock strikes 12 and you feverishly flip through the pages of your textbook, counting the pages you have left to study. The history exam is tomorrow, and you still haven’t studied any of the vocabulary, not to mention the dates. The next thing you know, it is 6am, and your parents are telling you to wake up to go to school.
Many students choose to cram the nights before exams, often at the expense of sleep. However, the extra hours of studying may not be as helpful if you are barely able to keep your eyes open during the test the next day. The scientific research paper, “To Study or to Sleep? The Academic Costs of Extra Studying at the Expense of Sleep,” by Cari Gillen-O’Neel, Virginia W, Huynh, and Andrew J. Fuligni, explores the relationship between sleep and academic achievement.
The study followed a group of students for four years from 9th to 12th grade. For two weeks each year, the participants filled out both a questionnaire and checklist before they went to bed every night (Gillen-O’Neel, et al. 134). They answered questions about how long they spent studying and doing homework outside of school and how much they slept every night (Gillen-O’Neel, et al. 135). The results showed that for the students participating “across the course of high school…the association between study time and academic problems changed such that study time became increasingly associated with academic problems” (Gillen-O’Neel, et al. 137).
At first, this might seem counterintuitive—how could extra studying result in more academic difficulties? However, many students take the time to study out of their normal sleep schedule, resulting in sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep can reduce ability to focus, decrease cognition, and cause silly mistakes, which impact performance on tests and schoolwork.
There is no perfect solution to this problem, as all students have different methods of studying, different schedules, and different after-school activities. However, time management is key to making sure students don’t get overloaded with work the night before a test. Students can plan for the future and knowing that they have a test, study for it the weekend before. Some students might even find it helpful to sleep earlier the night before an exam and study in the morning before school. Students could also communicate and negotiate with teachers and let them know when they have a lot of work for other subjects so that they don’t end up with three major tests on the same day. Whatever the solution may be, it is important to remember that sleep is more important than studying.
Gillen-O’Neel, Cari, et al. “To Study or to Sleep? The Academic Costs of Extra Studying at the Expense of Sleep.” Child Development, vol. 84, no. 1, January/February 2013.