It’s almost a rite of passage among students, whether in high school or beyond, to pull all-nighters before the night of the big test. But, with the new school year underway or about to start in most parts of the country, it might be a good time to re-think that strategy.
A new study at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), focused on daily and yearly variations of students who sacrifice sleep to study. It found that the lack of rest created by devoting sleep time to studies can actual create more problems than it solves.
For 14 days in each of the ninth, 10th, and 12th grades, 535 students from several Los Angeles area high schools reported in diaries how long they studied, how long they slept, and whether or not they experienced two academic problems — not understanding something taught in class or doing poorly on a test, quiz, or homework.
Although the researchers expected that extra hours of studying that ate into sleep time might create problems in terms of students’ understanding of what they were taught in class, they were surprised to find that diminishing sleep in order to study was actually associated with doing more poorly on a test, quiz, or homework (the opposite of the students’ intent).
The better strategy, which unfortunately requires forethought, is to review a little each night well in advance of a test, rather than trying to cram it in all at once.