But, let’s focus on its effect on learning. For instance, most of us have heard about the research on how teenagers, sleep and schooling may not always align very well. Here’s one about sleep and teenagers that outlines the amount of sleep your teenager should typically get — and why.
What I hadn’t read a lot about is how sleep affects exam scores and overall student success . Yes, yes, yes — intuitively, we all know that you need a good night’s sleep before your big exam, but is there more than that?
In a Science of Learning article researchers made some revealing findings with regards to sleep patterns and student success:
- Sleep irregularities account for nearly one quarter of the difference among students’ grades in a class;
- Even if you spend several hours studying for a test, but your sleep is inconsistent, you may still do poorly;
- Boys with poor sleep patterns seem to be more negatively affected than girls;
- While a good night’s sleep the night before a test is important, even more critical is the pattern of sleep you have a week (or even a month) before the test.
This last point was one that stood out for me in particular.
For example, if we look at a student who sleeps a consistent 7 hours every night, researchers found that those students will do statistically better on their exams than a student who sleeps 7.5 hours one night and 6.5 hours the next — even if the total amount of sleep is the same.
Also interesting was the data that showed if you’re in a deficit sleep situation and you try to ‘catch up’ on the weekend, it doesn’t appear to compensate for the negative effects of inconsistent sleep during the week.
So, what are the lessons we take from this:
- Find ways to not only maximize sleep for teens, but work to find a consistent number of hours every night.
- Limit screen time and other electronic devices in the bedroom as they have been shown to disrupt effective sleep.
- Build up your consistent sleep pattern over a long period to see the greatest positive effect in the classroom.
- Make sleep a top priority if you want to maximize success in school.
Now, getting back to that ‘napping makes you smarter’ … I think I’ll give that a whirl. All in the name of science.