Want To Ace That Exam? The Science Of Sleep – How Does It Make You A Better Learner?

Are you guilty of staying up late cramming before an exam? The National Sleep Foundation Poll shows that most students are not getting adequate sleep, which affects their grades. The reasons for these changes are attributed to pulling an all-nighter, increased part-time working hours, and watching TV at bedtime.  However, the best way to maximize your performance in learning is to get the required number of hours rest to enable you to learn.

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The Scientific Relationship between Sleep and Good Grades

The National Institute of Health revealed that sleep-deprived students have a lower GPA, which has been shown to impact concentration and memory.  Remember a time when you found yourself staring at a book till the wee hours of the morning, only to end up with a memory fail on the test day? This is because you are exhausted, and you cannot think clearly.

A study carried out at Stanford also discovered that sleep deprivation leads to decreased leptin and higher ghrelin levels. Lack of sleep results in less fullness and more hunger, leading to consumption of high-calorie foods. The research also found that learners were able to recall and consolidate information more effectively after getting enough sleep.

The Psychological Science issue carried out a random study to figure out the importance of sleep in learning. Three groups had to study a list of 16 Swahili words and give their translation. The participants saw the words paired with their meaning and had to go through the list and type the meaning. The control group studied the words and came back 12 hours later after sleep. They were tested on these words the next morning and again a week, and six months later.

The sleep group went through the words in the evening, went to sleep and came back after 12 hours. In a second trial, they continued to study the words they got wrong. They came after six months for tests of the words.

A third group, the No Sleep group studied the words in the morning and came back after 12 hours without any sleep. The group studied words a second time and were tested a week later and six months after. The findings showed that the control group and the sleep group remembered words after 12 hours compared to the no sleep group.

Also, the sleep group relearned the words in the second study session quicker unlike the no sleep group. At these tests, the sleep group excelled, showing that sleep led people to recall words better than studying only once and sleeping or studying twice without sleep.

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Getting sleep is essential when it comes to mental stamina. To maximize how long you learn or how well you learn, you need to get the recommended hours rest. You consolidate memories during sleep, which helps sustain attention and focus. Furthermore, sleep gives you the energy to be active and promotes your well-being.  Being tired makes you a passive learner, meaning that you only learn less.

The above research by the Psychological Issue also shows that cramming might not be a good study tactic as most students believe. It’s critical to spread work out over a longer period. Cramming means that you might remember the information after the exam. However, material that is studied over several nights is likely to stick even after an exam. Cramming and the reduced amount of sleep only exacerbates the problem.

Enough sleep also promotes your immune system. Lack of sleep suppresses your ability to fight off colds and other infections. If it’s recurrent, this can lead to other problems like obesity and heart disease.  Being sick means that you won’t be well enough to study or go to school, further lagging behind.

Sleep deprivation and low-quality sleep also affect your mood, which could have a consequence for learning. Changes in mood jeopardizes your ability to learn new information or to remember it. Also, you might view assignments as a challenge and not as an opportunity to show what you have learned. Adequate sleep creates a positive mindset, which is what you need to prepare for your exams.

What Happens During Rapid Eye Movement Sleep?

Sleep goes through five phases in which the body and brain cycle through different times during the night. The four phases involve a switch from shallow to deep phase. The fifth phase is the rapid eye movement sleep that takes your brain through vivid dreams and increased brain activity.

The last sleep stage is short during the start of the night. Long periods of rapid eye movement happen in the final hours of sleep, which can get interfered with if you don’t get eight hours of sleep. A review by the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine notes that there’s more activity in the emotional, motor, visual, and autobiographical memory areas of the brain.

Nonetheless, other areas of the brain like the part involved in rational thought go through decreased activity. It’s important to note that the dreams you remember when you wake up are a part of REM sleep, but the brain is active throughout the sleep cycle.

To read more about Science Of Sleep.


What do you think?

Written by Sleep Sherpa

My name is Ben Trapskin. I created Sleep Sherpa to educate myself and others about the importance of sleep and how to get a better night’s rest. In my mid 30’s I went through a period where I was only getting a few hours of sleep a night. This took a major toll on my physical and psychological health. After getting the proper help from medical professionals, I was able to get adequate sleep and life changed for the better.

Since then I have been fascinated with the world of sleep and the difference quality sleep can make in your daily performance. Aside from writing about sleep, I had been a librarian for 13 years. In that capacity I worked to connect people with new ideas and information to better their own lives.
In addition, I have had more than my share of frustrating mattress shopping excursions. Over the course of 2 years we purchased 3 different mattresses and I knew of many others with the same story. My quest to find quality mattresses and reputable companies began and I would like to lead others to the best sleep products in order to save time and money.
While many other mattress review sites keep popping up across the Internet—many out to make a quick profit by exploiting the online mattress boom—I aim to stand out as a resource that offers true value to consumers in the market for a mattress. I do my best to give you a sense of how a mattress will feel but at the end of the day, these are my personal opinions and shouldn’t be taken as facts.
The majority of mattresses I am sent for review are queen size. According to a 2016 report by the Better Sleep Council, 47% of Americans sleep on a queen size mattress followed by king at 25%.


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