By David Cale
Welcome to college! From making new friends, binge watching Netflix, and late-night Taco Bell runs, college is possibly the best way to make memories that will last forever. Since classes are during the day, most people reserve their evenings for these memory making occasions.
While a few late nights every now and then may not have any significant impacts on your day-to-day lifestyle, making a habit of staying up late can be incredibly detrimental to your ability to think, react, work, learn, and get along with others (1).
Not only does a poor sleep schedule make you susceptible to chronic health problems, it will also hind your brain’s ability to perform in class. Let’s go over the importance of sleep and a few tips to help you maximize your college experience.
A tragic mistake that many college students make, myself included, is pulling what’s known as an “all-nighter”. Not only do you sabotage your entire next day, you also sap your mind of precious processing power by pulling an all-nighter. A sleep deprived brain is not able to function at healthy levels.
All-nighters activate short-term memory (STM), not long-term memory (LTM) (2). According to a study conducted in 1971 called the Atkinson-Shiffrin study, STM is between 15 and 30 seconds. Unfortunately, STM is only able to encode about seven items into your memory anyway (3).
Memory consolidation is when items are moved from STM to LTM in the brain. And guess what?! It happens while you sleep! In 2016, a French study proved that if you sleep between study sessions, you’ll remember more. Not only will you remember more, but the memory will last much longer and will be much more detailed than if you were to study for the same amount of time without sleeping in between sessions (4).
However, it is very important that you study before AND after that sleep session. By rehearsing the information that you learned before you slept, the hand-off of information between STM and LTM is much smoother and more effective. Without rehearsal, you are giving up at least half of the information that you reviewed before you went to sleep. Remember: study-sleep-study.
How Much is Too Much?
The average college student needs somewhere around eight hours of sleep, give or take one hour (5). However, just going off of my personal sleep schedule and from those around me, college students fall way below that mark.
Keep a Rhythm
It is also important to go to bed on time! Keep with a schedule and don’t stray too far from it! Instead of staying up until the wee hours of the morning finishing your final paper, spread your work load out over the course of a few days and study as much as you can until bedtime. Then wake up and go over the material again (2).
If you get a sizeable assignment or have a test coming up, create a schedule for yourself and tackle a few things/chapters on that list over a few days rather than all in one night. The multiple sessions of sleeping allows your brain to encode the information much more easily than if you attempt to slam it all into one caffeine fueled craze.
No matter what, make sure you are always are getting enough sleep. Not only is it quite possibly one of the most crucial aspects of doing well in college, a healthy amount of sleep will help promote a healthy lifestyle. If you are able to master the art of study-sleep-study, you will find that what you studied will stay with you longer and better. Trust me. Your GPA will thank you.
(1) U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2017, June 07). Why Is Sleep Important? Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why
(2) Texas A&M University. (2016, September 19). Studying: Is it bad for your health to pull an all-nighter?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 3, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160919162837.htm
(3) McLeod, S. (1970, January 01). Saul McLeod. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/short-term-memory.html
(4) Sage Journals. (2016, August 16). Relearn Faster and Retain Longer. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797616659930
(5) Dement, W., M.D., Ph.D. (1997, September). SLEEPLESS AT STANFORD. Retrieved from https://web.stanford.edu/~dement/sleepless.html