There can be a tendency for teenagers and young adults to neglect sleep during the week and try and catch up by sleeping late on weekends. This is even more likely when students are faced with homework deadlines and looming test dates. However, does losing sleep in favor of extra study time actually pay off?
This question was examined in the January 2013 edition of Child Development. In the study, the magazine tracked groups of high school students in ninth, 10th and 12th grade for two weeks, having them fill out diaries.
Each evening, the students rated the amount of sleep they got the day before, the amount of time they spent on homework and answered questions about any academic problems they had the day before (like struggling with new material or scoring poorly on a test).
The findings showed that students slept less as they advanced through school. The average amount of sleep for ninth graders was 7.6 hours per night, while seniors got just 6.9 hours per evening. It was also shown that there were fewer academic problems as students progressed through grades, meaning that they got better at school with age.
Perhaps the biggest finding was that when students lost sleep because of homework, they had significantly more problems in school the next day. The negative effect on academics was greater in 12th graders than in the ninth and 10th graders.
So what does this mean? Sleep is important for many reasons. It promotes better brain function, a stronger memory, more energy and more focus. Seniors were affected the most by sleep deprivation because they were already on the borderline of not getting sufficient nightly rest. Any extra time taken away from their rest to work on studies had a more dramatic effect than on their younger classmates, because the ninth and 10th graders weren’t as sleep deprived.
Essentially this shows that cramming the night before a test is not necessarily along the path to a successful academic career. There are more benefits to be gained by getting that extra hour of sleep than by studying for that extra hour. Students should not sacrifice sleep and should not wait until the last minute to begin their homework, thereby potentially losing sleep.
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