Snooze your way to better grades

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Washington: Students, take note! Getting sufficient sleep during the exam week may help boost your grades, scientists have found. Researchers from Baylor University in the US invited students to participate in “The 8-hour Challenge”, in which participants were given extra points if they completed an average eight hours of sleep for five nights during final exams week. The study found that those who completed the challenge performed better in exams.

“Better sleep helped rather than harmed final exam performance, which is contrary to most college students’ perceptions that they have to sacrifice either studying or sleeping,” said Michael Scullin, from Baylor University. “And you don’t have to be an ‘A’ student or have detailed education on sleep for this to work,” Scullin said.

While students who successfully met the sleep challenge received extra points, the “mini-incentive” was not included in the analysis of how well they performed on the finals, said Elise King, assistant professor at Baylor. “Students know that sacrificing sleep to complete school work is not a healthy choice, but they assume they don’t have a choice, often remarking that there aren’t enough hours in the day for coursework, extracurriculars, jobs, etc,” King said.

Research participants included undergraduate interior design students and students in upper-level psychology and neuroscience classes. While the psychology classes emphasized education about sleep, the interior design students did not receive any formal training in sleep.

Those who opted to take the challenge wore wristband sleep-monitoring devices for five days to ensure accurate study results. Poor sleep is common during finals as students cut back on sleep, deal with more stress, use more caffeine and are exposed to more bright light, all of which may disrupt sleep.

Fewer than 10 per cent of undergraduates maintain the recommended average of 8 hours a night or even the recommended minimum of seven hours, previous research shows. However, with incentives, “we can potentially completely reverse the proportion of students meeting minimum sleep recommendations — seven hours a night — from fewer than 15 per cent up to 90 per cent,” Scullin said.

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