Many of us are much too aware of the problems of sleep deprivation as we entered higher education, like college and graduate school, but now, at alarming rates, young students are having serious consequences as they approach exam day. It’s even beginning to affect grade school students.
Teach your children while they are young to do their homework on a daily level and to “call it a night” when they approach the late hours prior to exams. They will be better off with a fresh mind and quick response time. Sleep is important for academic performance. They should also bring this to the attention of their professors as well. The universities are becoming more understanding of the effects of sleep deprivation on their students’ schoolwork and their examinations.
“I am not surprised to hear students in our MBA program, who are working fulltime and going to school fulltime, have some degree of sleep deprivation,” says Jack Brittain, Dean of the University of Utah School of Business.
This is an issue that creates serious problems for students if they don’t prepare for their classes over time. When they cram for an exam, they are losing out on their quick, studied and logical responses. On a timed exam, this can cost a student the difference of a grade.
The National Sleep Foundation finds that university students have the most commonly occurring sleep problems and insomnia. These 18 to 29 year olds are falling asleep in the daytime, and having troubles sleeping at night possibly due to the lifestyle changes and added stress that interrupt the sleep-wake cycle. Caffeinated drinks and foods as well as alcohol consumption can also contribute to these problems. The Department of Transportation shows statistics of young adults getting into motor vehicle accidents, and then causing serious harm to others and even death. Overall, drowsiness at the wheel is responsible for over 100,000 car crashes a year!
Teens need at least 9 hours of sleep a night to have proper daytime alertness.
Students are appearing to sleep less in the modern era, bombarded by ongoing pressures, electronics, and late night events. Certain schools have incorporated "stress-free havens" such as Duke University. Possibly the issues with weight gain and other health issues could be reduced by adequate sleep and avoidance of high sugar, high caffeinated and non-nutritional foods and drinks. These alertness aides are leading students down an unhealthy path.
The approach of proper nutrition, exercise, sleep preparedness, working on a daily level to keep up with school and life, and offering students open-timed examinations may be a better option then pressing for timely results without consideration for health. These are areas of further discussion.
The importance of scholastic achievement and engaging our students is to show proper preparedness for daily school learning and to make sure students do not "cram" for exams, and if they do pull an "all-nighter," maybe offer the students a place to sleep and rest prior to setting off for their home and endangering themselves and others.
I used to cram for almost every exam, this was something we did as a “cultural” process and we became used to it. If we didn’t cram on top of our studying, it was actually stressful, as if we would learn additional pieces of information prior to the actual exam.
I suggest that this is a cultural phenomenon and it can be changed. While going to high school, college or graduate school, students can be taught to do well during the school process, and study continuously, without the need for cramming ... It’s becoming more severe now and leading to automobile accidents and health problems beyond just sleep deprivation.
Some natural sleep solutions for restful students:
Study throughout the week, ask for assistance, and let your professor and faculty know about the sleep deprivation issues. They may offer helpful solutions, in ways you have not thought of.
Take short breaks from reading, relax the brain as you would your body muscles for peak performance.
Avoid caffeinated and sugar enhanced products, and instead substitute these products with natural fruits and other snacks to keep your brain active and energetic.
Relaxation techniques through the week prior to an exam, and again the night before an exam are very helpful and can increase the response time in your test.
Don’t drive if you are tired, ask a friend to drive, it is equivalent to being drunk behind the wheel. You can avoid an accident and also save a life.
Talk with your school to suggest switching the starting time of school from early morning to 8:30AM or later. Schools with later start time have a stronger performance and don’t cut into the sleep-wake schedule as the earlier risers. If you are in the university, take classes that are scheduled after 8:30AM.
Create a pre-exam sleep routine and pace yourself for your exam studies so you will not have to cram.
Adopt healthy lifestyle techniques and exercise regularly.
Staying motivated during school is important, and being at your peak performance is a must for competition. Make sleep a priority by helping attain good sleep-wake habits, and you’ll see that the next time when there is an exam, you’ll respond much faster and have a better outcome instead of a cloudy feeling. The bottom line message: students need sleep to perform well in school!
Finally, good luck on those exams, keep that positive attitude!
Dr. Nikos Linardakis is a physician executive based in Salt Lake City, and is the author of Ten Natural Ways to a Good Night’s Sleep. Visit www.DrNikos.com