Since coming to Penn State nearly two months ago, there have been many changes to my lifestyle. Some of these being my eating habits, the amount of time I spend studying, and the amount of time I spend with my friends. However, the most prevalent change that I have witnessed to my lifestyle and to the lifestyles of my peers is the drastic change in sleep. When I was in high school, I consistently went to bed around 11 and woke up around 6:45, achieving close to 8 hours of sleep a night. However, I find myself staying awake as late as 3 or 4 in the morning here at college. Similarly, I have talked to countless friends about how their sleep habits have changed and they describe to me the all nighters they have had to endure while attempting to finish a paper or study for a test. Also, it is no secret that the students who are pledging fraternities are forced to stay up to early hours in the morning while juggling academic endeavours. So, this made me wonder what the effect of sleep deprivation is on my grades.
Researchers at University of St. Paul in Minnesota investigated this topic. In 2009, they looked through the responses of 43,000 students in an attempt to study the correlation between sleep and grades. Their findings were shocking. First, they discovered that college freshmen were more likely to be affected by sleep deprivation than upperclassmen. Additionally, they discovered that sleep problems alone were a predictor of if a student would drop a class. The first thing that I thought when reading this is, what if there are other variables involved? For instance, what if students with anxiety issues or depression are more likely to get less sleep. However, this study controlled chronic health problems, race, gender, anxiety, depression and work hours so they would not impact the results. I would consider this study effective because the researchers accounted for confounding variables and took such a large sample size. Additionally, researchers found that insufficient sleep had just as negative an effect on students grades as binge drinking and marijuana use.
Furthermore, lack of sleep doesn’t seem to just have a negative effect on grades, but learning as a whole. Studies
suggest that the amount and quality of sleep a person gets is directly related to how well they learn and remember information. There are two main reasons why scientists believe this to be the case. First, a person who is sleep deprived has a harder time focusing on the material being presented. We have all been in this situation; half asleep staring at a professor speaking yet not comprehending what is coming out of their mouth. Second, sleep has the ability to sort through information that we acquire during the day and file it into our memories. Memory is generally broken up into three parts; acquisition, consolidation, and recall. A lack of sleep negatively affects all three of these processes. There has not yet been a mechanism discovered that explains why sleep has the ability to consolidate memories, but the data in support for this fact is convincing.
In conclusion, sleep is essential to learning and getting good grades in college. When contemplating weather to study all night or just go to bed, I would suggest going to bed. A lack of sleep will inhibit our ability as students to process information and problem solve. Quantity and quality of sleep are key variables in determining what one’s grade will be at the end of the semester.