Sleeping Your Way to Success

As the fall semester winds down at colleges and universities, countless students will doubtless be pulling all-night study sessions to prepare for upcoming exams. Fueled by Red Bull, Monster energy drinks, or sheer fear of failure, last minute cramming will be going on in dorm rooms, libraries around the world.

Ironically, as it turns out, the loss of sleep during these all-nighters could actually work against students performing well.

Dr. Philip Alapat, medical director of the Harris Health Sleep Disorders Center, and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, recommends that students study throughout the semester instead, and get at least 8 hours of sleep the night before exams.

Memory recall and ability to maintain concentration are much improved when an individual is rested,” he says. “By preparing early and being able to better recall what you have studied, your ability to perform well on exams is increased.”

College-aged students ideally should get 8-9 hours of sleep a night. Truth is, most students get much less.

Any prolonged sleep deprivation will affect your mood, energy level and ability to focus, concentrate and learn, which directly affects your academic performance,” Alapat adds.

All-nighters, especially when coupled with caffeinated beverages lead to a risk for developing insomnia and sleep disorders, including apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Alapat’s recommendations:

  • Get 8-9 hours of sleep nightly (especially before final exams)
  • Try to study during periods of optimal brain function (usually around 6-8 p.m.)
  • Avoid studying in early afternoons, usually the time of least alertness
  •  Don’t overuse caffeinated drinks
  • Recognize that chronic sleep deprivation may contribute to development of long-term diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease

Good advice!  Excuse me while I go to bed – I have an Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) exam in the morning!

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