Sleep or Study?

The age old question, should I sleep or study tonight? It happens almost every day for college students.  Many of my friends pull all nighters studying the day before an exam and swear that it truly works but findings by Brown University say otherwise.

College students tend to be some of the most sleep deprived people in the country and it is because of the “irregularity of their sleeping habits”.  According to a 2001 Brown study, only 11% of college students have a healthy sleeping schedule.  So 89% of college students are having an unhealthy nights rest.  According to a Brown University study college students should really be getting 8 hours of sleep a day and that is a pretty well known fact but since that rarely happens with college students I looked into the effects of getting less sleep.


College students need a full 8 hours in order to learn effectively because your brain needs “deep sleep” and “dream sleep”.  The main idea in this blog is the effectiveness of “All Nighters” because many college students recommend them for their efficiency but Brown studies disagree with the effectiveness.  “You can memorize facts during an all-night study session and recall the information through short-term memory for a test the next day, but you will most likely have to re-learn the material for a later cumulative exam.”  All nighters may help you in the short term for one test but they certainly hurt you in the long run.  This makes me think by pulling all nighters am I as a student wasting money by not actually learning the material because I am only going to forget it in a week.

The side effects are endless when not getting enough sleep.  They include physically weakening your immune system and everyone seems to have a weaker immune system in college.  Lack of sleep affects your mental health by resulting in tension, irritability, depression, confusion, and generally lower life satisfaction.  And even if you sleep later on the weekends this adds to an irregular sleep pattern.

The final question is not the effects of all nighters but if they are worth it.  That is where I think this article lacks information.  You can check it out here:  The findings of these Brown experiments could very easily be a false positive because some people naturally need less sleep and can function well with very little sleep.  I am questioning with their experiments whether they randomized correctly not only with different heights, sex and ethnicity but with different majors, different ages, and different colleges.  Especially in regards to some harder majors, kids are forced to pull all nighters due to the difficulty of their classes and tests.  I know personally kids who major in architectural engineering and mechanical engineering and they pull all nighters frequently and strive because of it.

Sleep is very important for college students and believe me I love a good nights sleep but sometimes I do see that it is worth it to lose sleep to study even though you may experience some of the side effects of a lack of sleep.

Sources Cited:

6 thoughts on “Sleep or Study?

  1. Andrea Marie Linn

    I don’t think you should of used an article from 2001. Thirteen years later, things can and probably have changed. A more up to date study would be a lot better. Even though the study is much older, I still agree. You can always go to bed early and wake up an hour earlier to continue what you started last night. Whether or not someone decides to go to bed or decides to stay up all night could depend on what happened during that day. Stressful days of school work and physical activity can make someone tired therefore not being able to keep their eyes awake to finish their homework. Even so, students could be staying up and doing other things that would be third variables to this situation such as partying or watching TV. I was reading a Times article and a quote stuck out to me, “[Students] should balance their studying across the week and anticipate what is going on. Try to have a regular study schedule so that you’re not going to have those nights spent cramning,” says Fuligni, a professor of psychiatry and bio behavioral sciences at UCLA.

  2. Patrick Emil Jackson

    From personal experience, I am inclined to agree with the Brown study’s conclusion that, “You can memorize facts during an all-night study session and recall the information through short-term memory for a test the next day, but you will most likely have to re-learn the material for a later cumulative exam.” While I have done well on some tests after simply pulling an all-nighter, I have often found it difficult to recall the information on a final exam. You make a valid point that, “some people naturally need less sleep and can function well with very little sleep.” It may be interesting to examine how representative this group is of the larger population of “sleep deprived” college students. Nevertheless, the existence of confounding variables in these studies will be inevitable and often difficult to control for. I can say from familiarity that pulling an all-nighter is likely to have more short-term benefits than long-term ones. posted an article that outlines some more information sleep cycles & stages, lack of sleep, and how to get the hours you need in order to function properly. Similarly it examines some myths about sleep that are interesting and worth taking a look at.

  3. Jon Winneg

    This post is very relevant to a recent dilemma I faced. I was debating whether to pull an all nighter and cram for my test, or space out my studying over time. I found that cramming for the test made me memorize the information for the hours I studied, but when the test came I couldn’t really recall the information. When I finally got sleep I had an easier time recalling the information, and also could recall it for a test which was cumulative. So i would have to agree with the Brown Study, but I could also see your point when you say the different subjects could affect the results. This article explains how spacing out and sleeping can be more effective than cramming ( When it comes to this issue I agree that getting the right amount of sleep is essential to success. You absorb memories when you sleep, and also will have focus more when you sleep. I understand if pulling an all nighter is your only option but when it comes down to it, sleep is the most important.

  4. Olivia Diane Talbot

    I have never pulled an all nighter, nor do I plan on it. Sleep is a necessity and I ALWAYS do better on a test of exam when I have a good nights sleep. Granted, pulling an allnighter does give a student more study time, but its all about opportunity cost when it comes to this. You could be getting a better grade, but you’re also losing a necessity to survive and be healthy. A way to get your sleep and a good grade, is manage your time better, study in advance, and maybe wake up an extra hour earlier so you get that last little bit of information installed into your brain. I agree with everything in this article: because sleep should never be the second option. Enjoy!

  5. Alyssa Marie Gregory

    While Brown University is a credible source I think the argument on sleeping or studying to have a better affect on the student is quite subjective. It all depends on the type of learner someone is. Me personally, I can not procrastinate because nothing will ever get done. Pulling all nighters is not for me at all. I need to have a full nights rest and have my work done ahead of time for the best results. My roommate on the other hand works best under pressure. On average she probably gets about 4 hours of sleep each night because she always stays up doing work. Crazy right? But it always seems to work for her. We also must think about how the child was raised. My best friend was raised by a single mother who worked late at night ( she slept during the day and was up at night) therefore my friend had a weird sleeping schedule where she would barely sleep. Growing up everyone would look at her funny and didn’t know how she did it. But she would always say that it was never a problem and she felt well rested. While I myself haven’t conducted a study to propose a solid conclusion I think it is safe to say that 8 hours of sleep is subjective and can vary person to person. Check out this link suggesting that 8 hours of sleep might not be what the average person should be aiming towards ; in fact it is calling the notion of 8 hours of sleep a myth

  6. Chloe Atherton Cullen

    I agree that as a college student it’s hard to go to sleep when you feel there is something unfinished like homework or studying for a test. This article ( explored an interesting study that was conducted on freshmen, sophomores, and seniors in high school. For two weeks they had to fill out a “daily diary” including hours of sleep, how much homework they spent time on, and how they did academically that day. While the 12th graders could work better and get less sleep per night, if they had to study into their allotted sleeping time they had a harder time recovering than the freshman and sophomores. Even though they on average function on less sleep, the smallest different to that amount throws them off completely the next day. The author here suggested getting 30 minutes of extra sleep and time management could easily resolve problems of sleep deprivation.

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