By Terry Cralle, RN
Are you a student who dreams of being an astronaut or other scientist someday? Your dreams are well within your reach if you work hard and do your very best in school. Of course, any occupation in the field of science or technology is competitive. Studying and earning good grades are a must if you are to make your career dreams come true.
So what is one of the easiest ways to do your very best? Sleep! Scientists (well-rested ones of course) have discovered a positive connection between sleep and academic performance. While we still don’t know all the reasons why we sleep, we do know that sleep is critically important for being the best student possible.
For starters, sleep is essential for learning and memory. Sufficient sleep helps you to pay attention, stay organized, retain what you study and remain focused during tests and exams. It provides energy and keeps you alert, making learning easier. Well-rested students are mentally sharper than their sleep deprived classmates. Sleep can help you to make the connections between ideas and see the big picture. Adequate sleep also improves your reaction time and your decision making abilities—both important attributes of a good student. The bottom line is that when students lose sleep, their performance suffers. In fact, research studies have demonstrated that students who get sufficient sleep earn better grades than those who don’t.
With all of the information and memory processing that occurs during sleep, it’s no wonder sleep has also been shown to boost creativity and provide inspiration. Researchers at the University of California San Diego discovered that problems are more likely to be solved after a period of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. In fact, several important scientific discoveries have been made during sleep. For example, the chemist Friedrich August Kekulé is said to have discovered the structure of benzene while dreaming.
So, to be the best student you can be— and to help you achieve your goals—make sure to get the recommended amount of sleep every night. It is suggested that children 5–10 years of age get 10–11 hours of sleep, and that those age 10 through the teenage years require 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep per night. Try to maintain a steady study schedule, and spread your school work out over longer periods of time to limit late-night cramming. Avoid pulling all- nighters—research has shown that they are counterproductive and actually end up doing more harm than good. Keep in mind that how well you do as a student may depend on how well you prioritize your sleep needs. With sufficient sleep, you are more likely to reach for the stars— and get there!
Terry is a Registered Nurse, Certified Clinical Sleep Educator and Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality, specializing exclusively in sleep health and wellness. Terry is the co-founder of a sleep disorders clinic and serves as a consultant to a variety of industries and organizations on the topic of sleep health. Terry recently completed her first book on sleep, Sleeping Your Way to the Top as well as a series of children’s books We Get Sleep.