During finals week, students may choose to swap sleeping for studying or feel so stressed that they’re unable to sleep well. However, according to Florin Dolcos, associate professor in LAS, lack of sleep may have a negative impact both academically and mentally.
Dolcos said if students cram before a test and deprive themselves of sleep, they’ll have a hard time remembering what they studied.
“Learning that happens during cramming periods is not going to serve for long-term purposes because proper learning needs proper consolidation, and consolidation of memories and learning happens with good sleep overnight,” Dolcos said.
Sleep is controlled by the the circadian clock in the brain, said Man “Jackie” Sze, senior in LAS, who researches sleep and memory. Because the region of the brain that controls sleep is connected with other regions that control learning, attention and memory, sleep irregularity or sleep deprivation will affect academic performance, Sze said.
Sze said students should not study directly before sleeping and should try to relax by listening to music. Sze said stress can keep the body alert, which can inhibit sleep.
“I avoid studying in my bed itself because that would associate studying and sleep, which would not be good because you will be sleepy when you’re studying,” Sze said. “Also, try to maintain a regular sleep schedule which could regulate your body’s circadian clock and help you fall asleep easily.”
Dolcos said students should always plan to study ahead of time for their exams because it is the best way to avoid a possibly stressful situation. He said students should talk with friends and family, exercise and eat healthy foods to actively cope with stress.
“There is this tendency of over-exaggerating the potential consequences of trivial things. This happens particularly when there is chronic stress or prolonged stress,” Dolcos said. “Just step back and try a different perspective. Try to see things with a cooler head.”
When students are trying to decide whether to sleep or study, Sze thinks they should choose sleep.
“Sleep is bound to enhance memory performances, no matter if it’s emotional memory or semantic memory or memory in general. We have enhancing effects through sleep.” Sze said.
According to a study done by Matthew Walker, professor at the University of California at Berkeley, sleep is vital after learning in order to remember the information long-term.
When Caroline Santucci, freshman in ACES, is unable to sleep the night before an exam, she thinks the best thing to do is to take a deep breath and acknowledge that she’s only facing a test. She also listens to music to help her relax before bed.
“Talk about what you’re feeling because everybody on campus is feeling the exact same way. I think even if you can just find a friend or somebody to talk to about how you are feeling, it just helps,” Santucci said.
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