60-Second Science

Studying Instead of Sleeping Bites Students

Students who studied a lot at the expense of sleep had significantly more negative incidents, such as not understanding a lecture, as those who kept a more balanced study schedule. Christie Nicholson reports

Before a big exam we’ve all been tempted to cram at the expense of a good night's sleep. But sleep is just as critical for school success as reviewing those notes. In fact, compromising on sleep can negate any advantage from extra studying.

In a new study, scientists had more than 500 high school students document how long they studied and slept over two weeks. They also had them note any negatives during that period—things like not understanding a lecture.

The researchers found that the students who studied a lot at the expense of sleep had significantly more issues than those who kept a more balanced study schedule. The academic issues typically came the day after sacrificing sleep. The study is the journal Child Development. [Cari Gillen-O’Neel, Virginia W. Huynh and Andrew J. Fuligni, To Study or to Sleep? The Academic Costs of Extra Studying at the Expense of Sleep]

Overall, those students who studied the most still had the best grades. But researchers note that those same students tended to keep a consistent schedule, and did not vary the length of study or sleep time. It was the irregular sleep schedules in particular that correlated with more academic problems.

Another case in point to support the tortoise way: slow and steady wins the race, even academically.

—Christie Nicholson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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