Categories: Sleep Science

Does Better Sleep Mean Better Grades?

MIT professors conducted a study to see if there was a relationship between the amount of sleep students get and their grades. The study, which experimented with 100 students in an MIT engineering class, did find a strong relationship between the two.



The students’ sleep habit consistency, and the time they went to bed, both made a difference as well. The professors also found that it takes a few nights of quality sleep to make a difference. In other words, you can’t just get a good night’s sleep the night before a test and expect it to be enough.

The students were provided with Fitbits in exchange for providing the professors with their activity data for a full semester. The findings, some unexpected and some not surprising, were reported in the journal Science of Learning.

One of the strongest academic success predictors for college students is the amount of sleep they get. Sleep plays a significant role in fixing and consolidating memories, and prevents decay of memories. When you don’t have sleep, you end up having to work harder, but still not do as well.

There has been previous research which found a link between academic performance and sleep. However, this research relied solely on the students filling out sleep diaries.

Three Important Measures

The students who obtained the best quality of sleep, the most sleep, and the most consistent sleep, experienced better grades than the students who obtained the least sleep. Grade scores overall were determined by adding their scores on:

  • Three midterms
  • Eleven quizzes
  • One final exam

The three sleep measures (quality, duration, consistency) together made up 25% of the variances in overall grade performance of the students.

The research also found for good academic performance, there’s a cut-off bedtime, which is 2 AM. Those who stayed up past this cut-off time, experienced poorer academic performance, even when their total sleep time s the same as their peers who went to bed earlier.

Therefore, this means the time you go to bed seems to matter. If you get a certain amount of sleep, like 8 hours, no matter what time you get that sleep, your performance is the same, as long as you go to bed before a certain time (10 PM, 12 AM 1AM). However, your performance begins to go down despite sleeping for 8 hours, if you go to bed after 2 AM. This means, quantity isn’t everything.

In the study, however, quality of sleep mattered. Those students who were consistent with how much sleep they obtained every night, performed better in their class than those students who had irregular sleep patterns, even if they wound up with fairly the same amount of sleep on average.

Another study showed pushing school start times back was associated with a substantial effect on grades. The researchers of this study looked at the effect delaying school time hours by 1 hour had on student grades. They found a 34 minute increase of average daily sleep increased students’ grades by 4.5%, along with their attendance.

Also found is a lack of sleep among teens was associated with depression and low mood.

Recap

Emerging evidence reveals that sleep plays a crucial role in how students learn. Parents should encourage healthy sleep habits, such as keeping a regular sleep schedule, sleeping on a comfortable mattress, sleeping in a cool, quiet, and dark room.

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    Amber Merton

    Amber Merton is an accomplished writer on the topics of green living and sleep. Her work has been covered in numerous online publications. Amber has been a regular author on the PlushBeds blog for the past 7 years.

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