Updated at: 11-03-2022 - By: Jane Brody

Thousands of college students across the country are wrapping up the academic year by sitting for their final exams before the summer break. Finals week is known for its high levels of anxiety, bad eating habits, and shoddy sleeping patterns. Even though college students are known for their sleep deprivation, exam stress and worry can lead to students going on “all-nighters,” or not sleeping at all, in order to prepare for tests.

Studying up till the wee hours of the morning can potentially harm your scores. Better sleep may be all it takes to improve exam results. That is, of course, a lot easier said than done. In an effort to help you sleep better during finals week, we’ve put together this quick guide on studying for exams. There’s no need to cram!

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How Much Sleep Do College Students Need?

Sleeping seven to nine hours a night is the recommended amount of time for adults to feel rested. The recommended amount of sleep for adolescents is eight to ten hours each night.

Natural sleep patterns are determined by our circadian rhythm or internal body clock. We go through a circadian shift in adolescence, which causes our bodies to naturally tire later.

Adolescence coincides with an early start to school, which exacerbates the effects of the circadian shift. Students face an uphill battle starting in high school and continuing through college: getting out of bed earlier than their bodies want to. This change in sleep schedule can have detrimental impacts on mood and attention as well as increased feelings of despair, even if students manage to get a full night’s sleep.

How Much Sleep Do College Students Get?

Key Concepts:

  • Most college students get less than seven hours of sleep every night during the course of an academic year.
  • College students sleep an average of 6.36 hours a night during finals week.
  • In addition to impairing memory and concentration, sleep deprivation also raises a student’s risk of mental health problems including depression and obesity, as well as driving while fatigued.

The vast majority of college students, as you would have anticipated, do not get enough sleep. Most college students sleep less than eight hours a night on weeknights during a semester. Many college students receive less than seven hours of sleep every night, and over half of them report feeling sleepy nearly every day. Asleep issue affects 60 percent of college students, and another 27 percent are at risk.

Final examinations can be especially difficult for students who have trouble sleeping because of the stress of studying and trying to get enough sleep. During finals week, the average college student sleeps only 6.36 hours each night. Fewer than 10% of people get eight hours of sleep per night. Most architecture students reported pulling at least three all-nighters a month in a survey.

Students not only sleep less during finals week, but they also sleep less well because they participate in poorer sleep practices. Students are more inclined to consume caffeine and other stimulants during finals because they are under a lot of stress. They also spend a lot of time in front of their laptops, smartphones, and other electronic devices, which exposes them to strong light. As a result of the blue light emitted by these gadgets, which the brain interprets as sunshine, you are kept awake since your circadian cycles are thrown off.

In the absence of the importance of sleep to general health, college students’ sleep patterns would be no big deal. Sleep deprivation occurs when you don’t receive adequate rest. When you don’t get enough sleep, you run the risk of developing major health issues.

College Students and Sleep Deprivation

Vocabulary Word: Sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation is a condition in which a person is unable to sleep for an extended period of time.
Sleep deprivation causes us to suffer symptoms such as:

  • Inability to fight off disease and infection as a result of weakened immunological function.
  • Stress levels are rising.
  • Weight gain and a rise in hunger pangs.
  • Sustained depression is more likely to occur.
  • The athletic ability has been hampered.
  • Drowsy driving incidents are more likely to occur.
  • Cognitive dysfunction.

Memory, creativity, and logical reasoning are all negatively impacted by little sleep. In other words, if you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to perform at your best on a final test. Students who don’t get enough sleep have a harder time paying attention and remembering new material.

A lack of sleep is more than just the result of pulling an all-nighter. It can also develop over time if you have a pattern of regularly cutting your sleep short. As with an all-nighter, missing one hour of sleep per night for a week has the same effect on your cognitive abilities. Most students are sleep-deprived during finals because they get only six hours of sleep.

Are You Aware? All-nighters are just as bad for your brain as being intoxicated. All-nighters have the same effect on your body as a 0.05 percent blood alcohol level.

Better Sleep = Better Grades. Seriously!

Key Concepts:

  • Improved grades, better memory, better happiness, and improved health can all be achieved by students who get enough sleep.
  • Improved academic achievement can be linked to better sleep.
  • The week preceding up to your exam is an excellent time to focus on getting enough rest.

Is it possible that a good night’s sleep could be the secret to a better exam score? It might very well be. Improved grades, better memory, better happiness, and improved health can all be achieved by students who get enough sleep.

Many students believe that cramming instead of sleeping will help them perform better on their tests. There is, however, a lot of evidence to the contrary. Extra credit for sleeping at least eight hours every night for five nights straight was offered in one research to encourage students to get more sleep. As of the non-incentive students, only 9 percent of them were getting enough sleep, and only 14 percent were getting seven hours. These numbers jumped to 59% and 86% when the students joined the program, respectively.

The students who received incentives slept an average of 1.5 hours more per night than those who were not. Best of all, kids who had slept better than their sleep-deprived counterparts did just as well on the test. Students who slept for at least eight hours per night outperformed those who did not in a different experiment.

What can we learn from this study? You won’t get much better at studying if you skip a night of sleep. Getting more sleep throughout finals week may help you do better academically.

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To Cram or to Sleep?

Sleeping well the night before a test can have a significant impact on performance. Getting a full night’s sleep the night before a test has been linked to better scores and a higher GPA overall, according to some research.

In some research, though, it’s been discovered that getting a good night’s sleep the night before an exam isn’t enough. At least a week prior to the exam, you should be sleeping well in order to reap the full benefits of sound sleep. Test scores were found to be unaffected by sleep deprivation in one study.

However, when researchers looked at students’ sleeping habits in the weeks and months preceding up to an exam, they found that those who slept longer and had greater sleep quality did better. More than a quarter of the difference in grades was attributed to students getting more sleep, according to studies.

It’s helpful to know how sleep works in order to comprehend how it can improve grades. Our brain goes through numerous stages of sleep during the night, from light sleep to deep sleep to REM sleep and back again. We gradually spend less time in light sleep and more time in the more profound REM stages of sleep with each cycle.

The amount of time you spend in REM sleep is reduced when you cut your sleep time in half. During REM sleep, we have the most vivid dreams and our brains are the busiest in processing and storing new information. In order for us to function at our best intellectually, we require a certain amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. When it comes to studying for finals, students who aren’t getting enough sleep are particularly vulnerable to sleep deprivation, especially REM sleep.

Tips for Sleeping Better During College Finals

During finals week, it’s probable that no one has more to do than a college student. However, you should make every effort to sleep better during this period.

Use Your Naps as a Study Break

Students who take more naps are more likely to get good grades. Taking a nap shortly after you’ve learned something will help you retain the information better. Vocabulary retention can improve by 11% in as little as six minutes of sleep. It has been found that napping is more beneficial than cramming when it comes to retaining new information.

As with many things, there is a fine line between getting enough sleep and getting too much sleep. Naps should be short, lasting no longer than 30 minutes at most, and should be finished before the end of the day. If you don’t, you may have a hard time getting to sleep that night.

Follow a Regular Sleep Schedule

Establish a consistent bedtime and wake-up time each day (including weekends). Students with irregular sleep patterns have been found to do worse in school, whilst those with regular sleep habits do better.

Make Your Sleep Environment as Cool, Dark, and Quiet as Possible

When you’re in a dorm and can’t adjust the thermostat, it can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep in a shared room. Four out of ten students had to get up early because of a noisy roommate or dorm. Eye masks and earplugs are your best friends if you’re in that circumstance. Alternatively, you can go off to sleep while listening to a Spotify playlist of white noise.

Go for Comfort

When your body is at ease, it’s much easier to get a good night’s sleep. Get a mattress topper if you can feel the springs in your dorm mattress. These are a cost-effective approach to increase your level of convenience. For some, weighted blankets might help alleviate anxiety.

Say Goodnight to Your Phone

Because of the blue light they create, electronic devices deceive you into staying up beyond your bedtime. At the very least, 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed, turn off your phone. Instead, curl up with a good book or some soothing music.

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Exercise Daily

Daily exercise, even if it’s only a quick walk around campus, has been proved again and time again to improve sleep quality. Make the most of your workout during exams by doing it outside as soon as you get up. You’ll feel more energized, and your circadian cycles will be better aligned, as a result of this.

Be Careful With Caffeine and Alcohol

As grueling as finals can be, it’s only natural to seek sugary sodas, caffeinated coffee, and salty snacks anytime you’re feeling low. These, unfortunately, are likely to make you sleep less soundly.

During finals, be careful with your caffeine intake. At least eight hours before going to bed, refrain from taking any more than 400 mg. Coffee has been shown to disturb sleep even when consumed six hours before bedtime, according to research. Nicotine and alcohol also have a negative effect on sleep quality. Instead, indulge in your favorite healthy foods to keep your energy levels up and your mood regulated.

During finals week, if you can, try to get as much sleep as possible. It’ll pay off in the long run!

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