Lack of Sleep Hurts Academic Performance & HealthPublished: December 4, 2020
Although sleep deprivation is rampant among college students, getting a good night’s rest is critical to maintaining health and can help improve academic performance.
It’s no secret that sleep deprivation carries huge ramifications that negatively impact health and well-being, but new research has shed light on how first-year college students often suffer these effects the most.
Whether pulling all-nighters for an upcoming exam, hanging out with friends or binge-watching their favorite TV shows, college students commonly skip sleep in favor of other activities.
In fact, more than 60 percent of students at Washington University say they are sleep deprived at least three or more times a week, which means they are losing out on the health benefits of regular REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
According to Tim Bono, a lecturer in brain sciences and assistant dean at Washington University, “Everyone needs sleep, but especially young people at this moment of transition when they are consolidating all sorts of new information and life lessons.” Bono has been monitoring sleep patterns in freshman college students for years, and has a keen understanding on its correlation with cognitive and emotional health.
Sleep Deprivation Rampant in College Students
During his research Bono has discovered that freshman students – who are overwhelmed with new environs, new classes, new friends and pressing social demands – aren’t prepared to prioritize their time, and sleep is the first thing to go. Bono is quick to point out that the quantity of sleep, while important, isn’t the only concern.
Consistency is actually more crucial in terms of sleep routines, as an irregular sleep schedule (for example: 4 hours one night and then 12 the next) upsets the body’s circadian rhythm, contributing to a cascade of problems including insomnia.
Sleep, especially REM sleep, plays a significant role in helping our brains consolidate new information, which in turn helps memory. A consistent lack of sleep, therefore, diminishes academic performance, which is a concern for college students. Bono’s studies also show that students who make it a priority to sleep at least 7-8 hours a night tend to maintain these good habits throughout their college years.
Health Effects of Sleep Loss
Harvard Medical School studies have illustrated the long-term effects of sleep deprivation on the human body, finding that lack of slumber leads to:
- Immune system deficiencies
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Being more accident prone
- Memory problems
- Weight gain
- Impaired brain function
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