Bolster Your Grades with Some Sleep

Getting enough sleep can transform your mind, affecting your mood, memory and ability to focus.

Think about it. How good do you feel after getting a good night’s rest? Perhaps getting enough sleep helps you feel refreshed and ready to take on the world, or at least your “to do” list, right?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults between 26 and 64 require seven to nine hours of sleep. However, more than 40% of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep, according to a Gallup Poll.

For adults going back to school – juggling family, work and online classes – getting enough sleep is vital.

A study by Chegg, an online provider of resources for college students, found that the majority of participants believed that students who did better in school probably got more sleep. And 84% also said they’d like to get more sleep. But only 16% got eight hours or more. They’re more likely, 79% admitted, to get between five and seven hours.

Any number of things are keeping students from getting enough Zs. And while too much homework can be a major hindrance, more than half the respondents said they spend too much time online doing things that had nothing to do with school. Incredibly, 86% take their digital devices to bed with them (and yes, they are left on).

The fact is that sleep is hugely important as there’s a very strong connection between rest, emotional health and cognitive function. Juggling work and family responsibilities is stressful enough. Add to that all the demands of college and the information that has to be absorbed, and the role of sleep becomes front and center. The brain is working during sleep, strengthening neural circuits between brain regions. That boosts cognitive and emotional functions for the day after. So, yes, there’s a direct correlation between your frame of mind and the quality of your sleep.

The price students pay for poor sleep? An American Academy of Sleep Medicine news article cited the results of several studies showing the effects of students’ poor sleep habits on academic performance – students who stay up all night to complete an assignment or study for an exam are likely to maintain a lower grade point average, while students with symptoms of a sleep disorder may earn poor grades in math, reading and writing.

Getting the recommended amount of sleep requires developing better habits. Among them:

  • Set a regular time to stop studying and stick to it. Unwind for about 15-30 minutes before climbing into bed.
  • Be consistent in what time you go to bed and wake up in the morning. Sleeping in on the weekends will affect your body clock and make it hard to get going.
  • Limit caffeine in the afternoon. Alcohol is even less conducive to sleep, affecting sleep quality and memory.
  • Avoid naps, especially after 3 p.m., but if you take them, make them catnaps.

And if you have trouble sleeping? Some practices to try:

  • Get out of bed and journal, preferably in a dimly lit room, with no digital devices allowed. Write down the thoughts that are keeping you up, then go back to bed and tell yourself it can wait until the morning as you let sleep take over.
  • Don’t try so hard. This only makes insomnia worse. Overcome the negative cycle by observing and accepting your struggle to sleep.
  • Try deep breathing. And if you couple it with counting, all the better. You will lull yourself to sleep in fairly short order.
  • Think about getting more sun the next morning, too. More midday sun exposure can help adjust your internal clock and help you ease into sleep more easily at night.
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