From: Allison Winter, ENN
Published August 30, 2012 10:28 AM

Study vs. Sleep: Which is more beneficial to your academic success?

Studying is a key contributor to academic achievement, but after sports practice, then your music lesson, dinner with your family, and homework that is due tomorrow, it's already 1 am and you are just starting to study for that US History midterm. But you’re exhausted. Should you go to sleep and hope that Roosevelt's New Deal isn't on the test, or stay up until you finish reading the last chapter on the Great Depression? This is a dilemma for many high school students as busy schedules and procrastination are pushing students into the late hours of the night to finish studying.

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However, according to researchers at UCLA, sacrificing sleep to cram for an exam is actually counterproductive.

According to new research, regardless of how much a student studies each day, if sleep time is forfeited, he or she is likely to have more academic problems the following day which can include misunderstanding of certain concepts or performing poorly on tests or quizzes. Researchers found that study time became increasingly associated with more academic problems, because longer study hours generally meant fewer hours of sleep.

"No one is suggesting that students shouldn't study," said Andrew Fuligni, the study's senior author. "But an adequate amount of sleep is also critical for academic success. These results are consistent with emerging research suggesting that sleep deprivation impedes leaning."

The researcher found that between each year between 9th and 12th grade, the average adolescent sleep times gradually decreased from 7.6 hours per night to 6.9 hours per night respectively.

"At first, it was somewhat surprising to find that in the latter years of high school, cramming tended to be followed by days with more academic problems," said Gillen-O'Neel, who works with Fuligni and was the study's first author. "But then it made sense once we examined extra studying in the context of sleep. Although we expected that cramming might not be as effective as students think, our results showed that extra time spent studying cut into sleep. And it's this reduced sleep that accounts for the increase in academic problems that occurs after days of increased studying."

The best way to be prepared for an exam is to allot studying into your schedule days before your exam because the more study time you average, the more likely you are to receive higher grades. So the next time you are debating studying vs. sleeping, remember that a good night's sleep is well worth it.

Read more at UCLA Newsroom

Study image via Shutterstock.

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