Somerset Times

The Correlation Between Sleep and Your Grades

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Somerset Times Edition

Week 3,
Term Two, 2016

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With assignments and semester exams this term, there is a lot of school content you have to cover. So it’s tempting to stay up late to cover more work, however, studies have found that in the long term, it might be more harmful than it is helpful.

Sleep plays a huge role in our learning and recent studies from UCL found that an optimal quantity of sleep was correlated with more effective learning. The definition of ‘effective learning’ constituted of knowledge acquisition and memory consolidation; both of which are vital when studying for exams. The European Sleep Research Society has reported that poor sleep quality (waking up during the night) is a strong predictor of lower academic performance. Particularly it was found these students had reduced attention and poor executive function.

Kenta Arichi and Catherine Gerrard, Academic Captains, with Dr Michael Brohier, Deputy Headmaster

In the study conducted at UCL, they studied 48 students recruited through a sixth form college in London (very high achieving students). The average bedtime for these students was 11.37pm, and the study showed that a longer amount of sleep were strongly correlated with better results obtained by the students in their tests taken at school. So the research was a direct observation of their academic performance at school rather than using benchmarking tools such as memorisation tests. But for many of us, while sleeping early sounds easy enough you may also need to consider waking up earlier to go to your co-curricular commitments, which reduces an hour of sleep. Luckily, there are still things we can do to improve the quality of our sleep. With our modern lifestyles, energy drinks and coffee are common place and I’m sure you can all relate to checking Facebook just before heading off to bed.

The consumption of caffeine and using social media before sleeping were also correlated with poorer sleep. This would be caused by the fact that these two factors keep us awake a little longer. So, to alleviate this issue, making sure you don’t use your phone 30 minutes before going to bed is a good idea. Instead, maybe read a good book as a substitute as this will both tire you out and widen your vocabulary. In the beginning breaking this habit will be really difficult, but with persistence it will become natural to get rid of your phone and read a book before going to bed.

Of course, sleep isn’t the only factor associated with academic performance, but maximising your performance with the content you’ve memorised may be all you need to bump up your grades. I wish you all the very best for your exam preparation and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask Catherine or I.

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