Teens who stay up late at night cramming are more likely to have academic problems the following day — doing poorly on the test they studied for — finds a new study by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), researchers.
Since students increasingly give up sleep for studying as they get older, the researchers say the problem compounds over time. The study involved 535 students from Los Angeles high schools. For 14 days during each of three school years — 9th, 10th and 12th grades — the participants kept diaries tracking the amount of time they spent studying, how much they slept at night and whether or not they experienced academic problems the next day, such as not understanding something taught in class or doing poorly on a test, quiz or homework.
(PHOTOS:The Artistry of Sleep: Photos of Icons Getting Some Shut-Eye)
The data showed that kids who didn’t get enough sleep were not only more likely to have problems understanding during class, a result the researchers had expected, but they were also more likely to do badly on tests, quizzes and homework — the very outcome the students were staying up late to avoid. “If you’re really sacrificing your sleep for that cramming, it’s not going to be as effective as you think, and it may actually be counterproductive,” says study author Andrew J. Fuligni, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA.
Overall, students spent an average of just over an hour studying each school night throughout their high school years, but their average sleep time decreased by an average of 41.4 minutes from 9th to 12th grade. When they got enough sleep, 9th and 10th graders reported an average of one academic problem every three days; by 12th grade the rate of academic problems they experienced was reduced to one problem every five days. However, when teens spent more time studying and less time sleeping than usual, the following days were characterized by more academic problems than normal.
(MORE:Unplug! Too Much Light at Night May Lead to Depression)
“This wasn’t a whopping effect, it wasn’t a huge effect, but it was a consistent pattern that when kids crammed, they had problems the next day,” says Fuligni. “That surprised us until we saw that when they crammed, they got significantly less sleep and when that happens, it’s more difficult to learn what you’re studying.”
The National Sleep Foundation says that teens function best with 8.5 to 9.25 hours a sleep a night, but Fuligni says that in his research, teens are rarely getting that much.”This is fairly standard when people do teenage sleep surveys. [Teens] usually get less [sleep] than experts recommend and that’s not unique to this study. Sleep goes down during the high school years,” says Fuligni.
(MORE:Getting More Sleep at Night May Help You Keep Slim)
The authors stress that they’re not encouraging teens to spend less time studying. As experience and research confirm, kids who study more tend to earn higher grades. Rather, the solution lies in better time management overall. “[Students] should balance their studying across the week and anticipate what is going on. Try to have a regular study schedule so that you’re not going to have those nights spent cramning,” says Fuligni.
The new study was published in the journal Child Development.
MORE:Can’t Sleep? You May Be Afraid of the Dark
Whether you thrive working late at night or have trouble getting anything done because of the temptation to give up to the comforts of sleep, most students will have to do homework late at night more than a few times in their lives. This is why we’ve created this list of 10 interesting tips to help you get through those moments:
It’s never a good idea to have caffeine too late into the night or can lose some of the valuable sleep your body needs to recover. But if you have caffeine about four to six hours before you plan to go to sleep you can use that energy to drive your homework study time.
Having some snacks handy will make it easy for you to reenergize throughout the evening. Try to stay away from sugary snacks that can actually have a negative effect and lead to energy crashes.
If you need to stay up late then it’s probably not a good idea to do you work anywhere near your bed. Set up your work facing away from your bed or in another room to avoid the temptation of laying down.
Don’t waste time digging around your backpack for whatever books or notepads you need to work through your assignments. Take out all of your needed materials beforehand to save you valuable time.
Keeping yourself organized can also be made easier by creating a task list that you can check-off as you complete each step of your assignments. This can also be a great way to keep you motivated.
Unless your homework requires you to work online, you should turn off the internet as well as all other common distractions such as the television or your cell phone.
It might be a good idea to have a little music to keep you awake. Just don’t choose anything that is too loud or distracting. Perhaps something that will likely grab your attention but not negatively affect your work habits.
Take a look at your assignments and figure out how long it will take to complete each task. Stay on top of this schedule to the best of your abilities so that you don’t spend too much time on any one part.
When you take your breaks try to do something to energize your body and rest your mind. Don’t lay down for a short nap; you might just fall asleep for the night. Go for a walk or do some light exercises instead.
Lastly, review each section before moving on to the next. Doing so will ensure that you understand where you are at in your assignment as well give you the drive and focus to move onto the next challenge.