Does Sleep Directly Affect Academic Performance?

College is by far the busiest time of my life so far.  With classes, homework, studying, maintaining a good social life, staying in shape, I often find myself having very little free time. During the day I am usually very busy, and at nights I am often up late doing work.  With everything going on, I often do not have much time to actually sleep.  I have spent many, many nights up past 2 am, and do not find myself getting close to the amount of sleep I would like.  This leads me to a question: Does sleep directly affect academic performance?  I have been doing pretty well in my courses, despite lacking quality sleep.  I want to know if this is just a fluke, or if I could be doing even better with a full nights sleep every night.


Dr. Philip Alapat, a medical director at the University of Baylor, suggested that students should attempt to get at least eight hours of sleep a night.  As a student, I feel like this is almost impossible.  I have 9 ams, meaning I wake up at 8, and the idea of me going to sleep before midnight just does not seem plausible.  Dr Alapat, along with many other experts, say that it is much, much easier to recall memory and stay focused when fully rested.  Aside from your memory and focus, lack of sleep drastically reduces ones energy and tends to put people in a poorer mood.  All of these factors negatively impact the way a student achieves in the classroom.  Aside from sleep, Dr. Alapat suggests that students should study between the hours of 6-8, which are statistically the brain’s most alert time period.  He says to avoid studying in the early afternoons, as this time period is the brain’s least optimal and least alert time period.


One survey studied volunteer college student’s sleep habits and their academic performance.  In this survey, the average sleep time for students was between 4-6 hours a night.  In this study, it was concluded that 80% of the volunteers suffered from sleep deprivation, while only 20% of students slept for 8 hours or more.  The students who did not get enough sleep had an average GPA of under 3.5 while the students who did get enough sleep had an average GPA of above 3.5.

Various studies were done tackling the idea of sleep on academic performance.  In these studies, the researchers examined students of different ages to see if lack of sleep hurts students of some ages more than others.  14 college students were studied over a 28 hour period of wakefulness.  At the beginning and the end of this time period, the students were given a cognitive performance test.  To the surprise of the researchers, the cognitive performance of these students do not change much, even after being awake for 28 straight hours.

A longitudinal study was done on middle school students, testing the question.  Middle school students, when lacking sleep, showed a large change in self esteem and grades.  For these younger students, sleep plays a large role in how they act and perform academically.

A final study was done 75 healthy children falling between the ages of seven and eleven.  For five straight nights, scientists monitored the children’s sleep, then averaged the five nights to get the students average sleep time.  The children who had less amount of sleep exhibited poor moods, less consciousness, and less energy.  The study says that quality sleep in young children strongly helps them retain information in math and languages.

After researching information to see if sleep affects academic performance, I have come to the conclusion that it definitely does.  Getting a quality sleep helps humans in so many ways.  It helps their alertness, gives them energy, and naturally puts them in a better mood.  All of these factors impact academic performance as well.  I believe that sleep and academic performance are strongly related, but most related in children middle school and below.


3 thoughts on “Does Sleep Directly Affect Academic Performance?

  1. Brian A Vargas

    Great post, I myself have always had trouble managing my time which has lead to not sleeping enough. A lot of things change when you get to college, such as having class schedules that may change from day to day. Which can make it hard to build a routine if say your schedule alternates from 8am classes to 4pm classes every day. I am currently in a similar circumstance which leads me to sleep in on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday then I also stay up later on those nights due to not being able to sleep. This makes my Tuesday, Thursday morning classes a little harder to get to. I also find myself leaving things to last minute which can turn into not getting any sleep at all. Lucky after a few weeks through the semester I was able to find my self balancing my time a lot better, which has lead to sleeping more and I would say my grades have improved.

  2. Akhil Dharmavaram

    I never had a doubt that sleep impacted academic performance but reading the results of the studies you mentioned made me wonder how exactly it does. Obviously, people who do not get enough sleep tend to have less focus and attention. The results of the 28 college students performing almost the same before and after losing 28 hours of sleep was surprising to me. Perhaps this is because after a certain number of hours, your body stops losing focus and no longer feels the need to sleep. I have experienced this feeling before, especially after staying up for over 20 hours during THON weekend. Maybe that is something to look into further. The results of the younger children displaying the negative signs make more sense, and I guess it is why young children usually have such a strict bedtime.

  3. Mya Legend Avant

    I have to agree with what you are saying in this post. I really tend to be less productive when I do not get enough sleep. However, I wonder if everyone needs the same amount of sleep to be productive. It is true that when I get little sleep my eyes burn, I can barely stay up and I have a really hard time being alert, but this is not the only instance in which this occurs for me. I also have all these sysmptoms when I sleep for too long. I always wonder if it was just a me thing, but several people have said that both too little and too much sleep can affect their productivity. I just wonder what is it about too much sleep that make you want to go back to sleep? In the article below it talks all about how too much sleep could be bad for you; who ever knew more than eight hours was harmful?

Leave a Reply