The most important bodily function for many college students often gets the least attention–sleep. Recent research shows students who have poor sleep habits do not perform as well in school.
In a 2011 study presented by the University of Cincinnati researchers concluded that a large number of college students are not getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night. University of Cincinnati doctoral student Adam Knowlden, head of the research efforts, studied the sleeping habits of over 200 undergraduate students. Those who participated in the study were between 18-24 years old who, in addition to attending classes, worked either full-time or part-time jobs. From his sampling of students, 50.8 % slept less than seven hours of sleep, while 20.8% slept more than eight hours.
University of Maryland senior Baja Poawui like many students is trying to balance school, work and extracurricular activities.
” I just don’t have enough time,” says Poawui. This semester, Poawui–who is a double major in English and Public Relations, a part-time sales associate at H&M, and vice president of a campus fashion organization–balances her 15 credit class hours, with her average 25-30-hour work schedule. Not included in those figures are her hours dedicated to studying. Poawui figures she sleeps about five hours a night.
On Poawui’s most busiest of days (which are Tuesdays and Thursdays) she is up, at the latest, by 8:30 a.m. (after getting home past midnight from her job) to get to her 9 a.m. class on time. For the the rest of the day she is on campus until her last class ends at 6 p.m. On Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday she is working for her employer anywhere from five to eight hours per shift.
” I usually sleep between classes and do my work on the move,” says Poawui. “I will admit that it is hard trying to remember what I’ve read when I do [study] on the go. “
Research, however, proves that adequate sleep assists the brain in memory retention while inadequate sleep affects concentration and memory.
Knowlden explains that, “During sleep, the brain acts like a hard-drive on a computer. It goes in and cleans up memories and makes connections stronger, and it gets rid of things it doesn’t need.”
“Students aren’t able to learn, they’re not able to remember, it’s harder to concentrate and it affects mood. They’re working their way through college and they’re not maximizing their learning potential,” he said.
Pamela Thacher, a psychology professor at St. Lawrence University, conducted a study in 2007 to see the effect sleep had on students’ grade point averages (GPAs). Two-thirds of Thacher’s 111 college student participants, admitted to staying up all night to study for exams. Thacher was able to conclude from her study that students who commonly pull all-nighters to study had ,on average, slightly lower GPAs than those who did not.
When asked if she knew that her grade point average could be higher if she slept more, Poawui shook her head no and said she’d “figure[d] as much.”
Campus Mind Works, a University of Michigan website dedicated to supporting the mental health of students, provides a list of sleeping tips students can use to help better their sleeping habits and improve their performance in school. Some of the suggestions provided include:
-Limit caffeine and nicotine intake
-Practice time management
-Avoid taking naps during the day
-Don’t rely on weekend catch up
-Go to bed and wake up as close as possible to the same time everyday
-Use the bed for only sex and sleeping
-Go to bed only when your sleepy
In addition,Campus Mind Works encourages students to keep a sleep journal. The journal can help students evaluate their sleeping habits and make the necessary adjustments to improve on the quality of sleep they are getting.
Students who believe that they are suffering from severe sleep deprivation or may have a some type of sleep disorder are encouraged seek to professional care at a sleep disorder center. Please visit www.http://health.nih.gov/topic/SleepDisordersfor more information on sleep disorders.