How Does Sleep Effect Grades?

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.

Baby smiling in bed with eyes closed and arms out.

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.sleep


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.

Work Cited


6 thoughts on “How Does Sleep Effect Grades?

  1. Pingback: The Importance of Sleep For Students | Zinus

  2. Brendan Feifer

    Your post is extremely relatable to the majority based freshmen in this class. One factor that should be taken into consideration is how we manage our time when we are awake. Why do we leave everything until the last minute? I believe that freshmen struggle the most with sleep deprivation because of the lack of time management, which ultimately is a learning process because as the studies indicate, upperclassmen don’t suffer as much from poor sleeping habits. I like how you focused on multiple studies, as this creates for precise conclusions.

  3. Bailee Nicole Koncar

    Hi Adam!
    Your post is so true. Sleeping definitely has a great impact on our academic performance. It is a shame because often times we are staying up late to finish our work and yet the following day we are yet again behind because we are too exhausted to understand any of the new material. Freshmen especially have difficulties with this. We are new and busy adjusting to college. We are not used to such a heavy work load so we often find ourselves staying up too late. Sleeping is so essential because if I wake up not having had enough hours of rest, I am unable to learn. I am also only concerned with going back to my dorm after class to sleep. For this reason, I think that later classes are important. They allow for a person to sleep in and have more time in the morning if he or she decides to stay up late the night before.

  4. Megan Ann French

    I can relate to this post very well because my sleeping patterns are very different now then what they were in high school. In high school I use to go to bed around 10-11 each night and wake up at 6 in the morning getting a pretty good nights sleep, and the past few weeks I haven’t been getting to bed until 2:30 in the morning. What stood out to me in your post was when you mentioned in the first study that “college freshman were more likely to be affected by sleep deprivation than upperclassmen”. This surprised me at first but once I thought about it I can see that because freshman are adjusting to everything and upperclassmen already have the basics down. So I decided to look up how to manage your time better
    so you don’t have to stay up for countless hours of the night to get your work done. Hope it helps!

  5. Kassidy Schupp

    This blog post is good because it is totally relatable to a majority of the students here at Penn State and at any college. I did a little research on the correlation between sleep and academic performance when I was doing research for my blog on diet and academic performance. These factors go hand in hand when it comes to determining ones grades. They are confounding variables of each other.

  6. Julia Hall

    I can really relate to this blog because my sleeping patterns are alot different now. I agree that the more sleep you get the better you will learn and retain information. When I sleep better, I feel like I am more aware and alert and therefore am able to learn more. In the beginning of the year I did not sleep very much and was constantly falling asleep in my classes and having trouble focusing and when I went to do my homework or quizzes I had a really hard time because I could not remember some of the things that I learned.

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