Late nights studying can actually have poor consequences for grades, according to a new study published in the journal Child Development by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Helena Seli, a professor of clinical education at USC’s Rossier School of Education, said that recent studies suggest that the human brain uses sleep specifically for learning and remembering information.
“Sleep studies are suggestive, not definitive, but there is enough experimental evidence to show that sleep helps to consolidate memories and learning,” Seli said.
In the paper, the researchers state that learning material becomes more difficult with a lack of sleep.
“Regardless of how much a student generally studies each day, if that student sacrifices sleep time to study more than usual, he or she will have more trouble understanding material taught in class and be more likely to struggle on an assignment or test the following day,” the researchers wrote in the paper.
The study also gave evidence that students who regularly obtain fewer than five hours of sleep tend to have a lower GPA.
Seli said sleep is important because it is crucial in the process of forming memory.
“As we sleep, our memories get consolidated and integrated with existing knowledge,” Seli said.
Stephen Los Baños, a senior majoring in communication, said he believes most USC students understand that sleep is crucial for their academic success. However, Baños also observed that students tend to study more at night, which effects their sleeping.
“However, often times, due to such things like bad time management, we do not allow ourselves to get into a regular sleep cycle,” Baños said.
Robert Abugel, a sophomore studying policy, planning and development, said he studies late into the night in the hopes of making up for lost study time during the day.
“I study more late at night because I’m busy during the day with classes and other obligations to friends,” Abugel said.
Seli, however, said leaving studying to one block of time can be detrimental because of the difference between mass and distributed studying. Mass studying is what students like to call “cramming,” while distributed studying is studying small sections of a topic over long periods of times. Mass studying has been shown to not produce long-term knowledge. In contrast, distributed studying paired with regular sleep allows students to learn new topics effectively and also consolidate this new knowledge with proper rest.
Other research studies have been done in the past that provide more evidence supporting the point that sleeping less regularly, even if it is to study, causes poor academic performance.
“The Link Between Sleep Quantity and Academic Performance for the College Student,” a research study done by the University of Minnesota Undergraduate Journal of Psychology, shows results that suggest the more students sleep at night, the higher their GPAs are.