Why Sleeping May Be More Important Than Studying
etting enough sleep is an under-valued but crucial part of learning. Contrary to students’ belief that staying up all night to cram for an exam will lead to higher scores, truth is, the need for a good night’s rest is even more important than finishing homework or studying for a test.
A recent study in the journal Child Development showed that sacrificing sleep in order to study will actually backfire. The study followed 535 Los Angeles high school students for 14 days, tracking how long they slept, as well as how well they understood material being taught in class and how they performed on a test, quiz, or homework.
“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, quiz, or homework,” Science Daily wrote.
“Reduced sleep … accounts for the increase in academic problems that occurs after days of increased studying,” said UCLA scientist Andrew Fuligni. “Although these nights of extra studying may seem necessary, they can come at a cost.”
In another study by a research team at the University of York, researchers found that sleep even helps boost language acquisition skills in young children. ”Children’s ability to recall and recognize new words improved approximately 12 hours after training, but only if sleep occurs,” said Dr. Lisa Henderson, a lead researcher on the study. “The key effects were maintained one week later, suggesting that these new words are retained in long-term memory.” The study, published in Developmental Science, shows that when they sleep enough, children show the same learning patterns as adults.
Yet even with the well-documented evidence that sleep is necessary to learning, students continue to face increasing demands on their time. Kids often participate in extracurricular activities as well as hours of homework each night.