Finishing your third cup of coffee, cramming for an exam, and staying up late to study or to complete an assignment is often considered as productive. However, Ronald Harvey, a Professor of Psychology at the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG), says that if a student stays up late to study and deprives himself of sleep, this is the worst way to study, memorize, or be productive. A group of AUBG students shared their sleeping patterns with AUBG Daily, and it turns out that most of them are depriving themselves of sleep, which can potentially lead to lower academic performance and increased health issues.
Most of the students who were questioned on their sleeping patterns shared that the main reason as to why they are staying up late is because they are either studying or submitting an assignment with an approaching deadline. Other students mentioned that social media makes them stay up late, and some even revealed that their anxiety keeps them awake.
“Your body needs sleep, your body is made to sleep, and depriving that is as silly as depriving of food, air, water, and nutrition,” Harvey said.
Sleep clears out certain toxins in our brains and bodies, and it also consolidates memories. Because of this, Professor Harvey assures that a student who studies for 30 minutes and then goes to sleep is always going to remember more than a student who studies for two hours and deprives themselves of sleep. Sleep is essential for the proper function of the human body. According to Professor Harvey, sleep deprivation can weaken the immune system, which makes people more vulnerable to colds and catching certain viruses such as COVID-19. Most of the students shared that they usually sleep between six-seven hours, and sometimes even less than that. They also emphasized that the lack of sleep makes them less productive and energetic, which makes them crave sleep more than usual.
Then why are they still depriving themselves of sleep?
Irena Georgieva, a sophomore student at AUBG, shares that she deprives herself of sleep for different reasons, and one of them is not having enough time during the day for all of her tasks.
According to Professor Harvey’s observations, students deprive themselves of sleep because they think that they are being productive. Harvey said that students want everything – they want to have a full social life, good grades, and time to rest. As a result, students begin to wonder how to manage their time.
“The day is 24 hours long and that is how long it is. Managing can’t change that. […] I always tell students don’t think about managing your time, think about managing your behavior,” Harvey said.
Professor Harvey also mentioned that when he sees a student and it’s obvious that he or she didn’t get enough sleep, the reason is not always because they were staying up studying. The reason could also be that the student was partying and only got three-four hours of sleep. When his students are struggling with prioritization, he advises them: “Listen, you can party during the summer, you can party during the breaks, but during the semester you should probably do less socializing and more studying. And trust me, it’s not forever, it will happen,” Harvey said.
Since many students shared that they are depriving themselves of sleep due to finishing assignments or studying for a next day exam, a different studying approach should be considered. Professor Harvey shares with his students a way of studying that he finds more effective.
“The best way to study is to do it in small chunks – 30 minutes, 45 minutes, then take a break and move on to a different topic,” Harvey said.
He guarantees that if a student spends around 30-45 minutes on around five different topics per day, then that student will remember more than a student who spent six hours trying to memorize just for one subject. For achieving the best results in balancing studying and enough time for sleep, Professor Harvey suggests starting to study a week or 10 days before the day of the exam. He recommends spending the last day for revision of the topics that a student is less confident in.
Depriving yourself of sleep doesn’t just reflect your academic performance as a student, but it also can lead to stress. “It affects mostly my mental health. I get depressed and stressed,” shares Dulamsuren Amarsanaa, a sophomore at AUBG, on how the lack of sleep affects her.
“We think usually that stress is something that is happening to us, but you can cause your own stress. And what is the thing you can do to cause your own stress is to deprive yourself of sleep,” Harvey said. When students deprive themselves of sleep, they are stressing out their brains and bodies, and this often leads to universal stress among students. Stress can also lead to health problems. Professor Harvey points out that stress is one of the main problems of modern and student life.
“Stress can cause sleep deprivation; sleep deprivation can cause stress. What you want to do to break that cycle if you are not sleeping and to learn to manage your stress,” Harvey said. He recommends meditating, trying to be more optimistic, and striving for a healthy amount of sleep.
In an article by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, it is stated that most students are not getting enough sleep and this has a negative impact on their grades. Advice is provided in the article to help students get enough sleep. Going to bed early, avoiding reading and studying in your bed, limiting naps, avoiding caffeine, and eating less before going to bed are some important pieces of advice listed in the article. Those might help students with the common and often ignored sleep deprivation problem.
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