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« Motivation and Focus | Main | What do majors have to do with anything? »
Wednesday
Jun092010

Better Sleep, Better Grades

This is a guest post from Steve who writes about how to be an outstanding pre med student at PreMedJourney.com

Could the quality of your sleep keep you from getting into medical school? The latest research suggests that how well you're sleeping could be just as important as how much sleep you get when considering academic success.

Unfortunately the demanding schedule of pre-med classes and activities often means pre-meds are worse off than other college students when it comes to sleep. We get less and lower quality sleep often due to the added stress of difficult classes and balancing activities.

While increasing the amount of sleep is always a good idea, perhaps we would be better served to focus on improving the sleep we do get. Physicians use the best available evidence to suggest treatment options to patients, why shouldn't pre med students look at the best evidence when considering sleep habits and academic performance?

Let's look at what the most recent research says.

This study performed by the American Sleep Assocation states, "Compared to those with the lowest academic performance, students with the highest performance had significantly earlier bedtimes (p = 0.05) and wake times (p = 0.008). Napping tended to be more common among high performers (p = 0.07)." They concluded, "Timing of sleep and wakefulness correlated more closely with academic performance than total sleep time and other relevant factors."

This study from Sleep Medicine Reviews concludes, "...sleep quality and quantity are closely related to student learning capacity and academic performance." What does poor quality sleep look like? Check out this study published in Behavioral Medicine which states, "...variable sleep schedules, going to bed thirsty, environmental noise, and worrying while falling asleep contribute to poor sleep quality." Based on this evidence, here are 6 simple ways to improve your sleep habits.

    Eliminate noise. Sometimes this may require drastic measures such as earplugs. I know from experience.
    Get To Sleep Earlier, Wake Up Earlier. This factor was strongly correlated with improved academic performance. Try to get to bed by 11PM and get up between 6 and 7AM for a total of 7-8 hours of sleep.
    Stick To A Consistent Schedule. Try to go to bed at the same time each night during the week and try to not sleep in ridiculously late on weekends.
    Take Naps. Find the ideal amount of nap time that doesn't make you feel too groggy.
    Drink A Glass Of Water Before Bed. Why? I don't know, but going to bed thirsty seems to contribute to poor sleep.
    Reduce Stress. Check out this post by Cal Newport at Study Hacks that demonstrates how low stress medical admissions is possible.

Here's a summer goal for you: work on improving both the quantity and quality of your sleep. Higher grades will be in your future, not to mention a more enjoyable life.

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Reader Comments (8)

Going to sleep without drinking water could cause vasoconstriction and can cause a headache while you're waking up. Don't know if that directly relates but it doesn't help.

Great post, Steve. Thank you for taking the time to give us some advice. I always do better in school and work more efficiently if I get on a set sleeping schedule averaging about 8 hours of sleep.

June 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Pre-meds don't sleep. Come on now, I already know this. I've been doing it for four years

June 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Thanks Brian! That would make sense about a headache, I wonder if just the discomfort of being thirsty has something to do with it too.

Boo. Sleep takes too much time. I need something that tells me sleep doesn't affect you. :(

June 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThymur A. Chaudhry

The list is fine. Appreciate it very much. I think one of the best way to reduce sleeping disorder is to relax the muscle,decrease tension. Also its not how long your sleeping habit is but how you sleep at the same time everyday.

Seems like sleep research on the topic of recommended quantity has been exhausted and beaten. Since that's out of the way, researchers should be looking into things pre-meds can do to perform at optimal levels on reduced amounts of sleep. Getting adequate and consistent sleep for pre-med majors is near impossible. There's so much to learn, competition is high, and demand for our time is high. What are the alternatives??

October 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterClare

Clare, I disagree that consistent sleep is impossible, or anywhere near impossible. If you consistently keep up with your workload it is very possible to pull of amazing grades. Some of the smartest people I know sleep 7-8 hours a night, and still pull of 4.0 in hard science majors. The trick is to not procrastinate. IF you are consistent in your study habits, you should have no problem hitting the sack before midnight the night before that big biochem exam and still pull of an A.

The biggest tip I can give you is that, screw the competition, get out of the rat race, study your butt off regularly instead of that mad rush the night before the test. You will see your grades and quality of life improve drastically. Procrastination adds stress to your life that you don't need.

November 2, 2010 | Registered CommenterMohammad

When students study, they learn something new, and therefore they form a new memory, however in order to make these memories “stick” they must be solidified and improved; this is known as “memory consolidation” and sleep plays a major role in this process. Better memory means better grade. A GPA Calculator would surely be helpful to measure it.

May 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnna Damaris

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