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College students perform better academically when they get better sleep

It takes more than just one good night of sleep to see results

Photo (c) skynesher - Getty Images
Getting a good night’s sleep has been found to lead to any number of positive benefits for consumers. Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found an added benefit for college students. 

The researchers found that college students perform better in their classes when they consistently sleep well. 

“Of course, we already knew that more sleep would be beneficial to classroom performance, from a number of previous studies that relied on subjective measures like self-report surveys,” said researcher Jeffrey Grossman. “But in this study the benefits of sleep are correlated to performance in the context of a real-life college course, and driven by large amounts of objective data collection.” 

Consistency is key

Grossman discovered that students in his class who were consistently sleeping the most were the ones who scored the best on every graded assessment, which included three midterms, a final exam, and 11 quizzes. 

Moreover, students did better academically when they went to bed before 2 AM, as crossing that threshold, regardless of how late the students slept in, poorly affected class performance. 

The researchers emphasize that there’s no quick fix when it comes to sleep. Students who tried to get a good night’s rest before a big exam but hadn’t slept well in the days leading up to the test didn’t perform better. The finding further emphasizes how important it is for students to make a habit out of sleeping well. 

This mirrors the findings from a study earlier this year which found that consumers reaped no benefits in trying to make up for missed hours of weeknight sleep on the weekend. 

“We’ve heard the phrase ‘Get a good night’s sleep, you’ve got a big day tomorrow,’” said Grossman. “It turns out this data does not correlate at all with test performance. Instead, it’s the sleep you get during the days when learning is happening that matter most.” 

Though the researchers explain that sleep is not solely responsible for how students are doing in school, the study findings illustrate how beneficial it can be to get quality nights of sleep on a regular basis. 

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