Sweet Dreams: The Effect of Sleep on Student Learning

You are probably one of the guilty ones. You have piano practice after soccer practice and then you have to drive your brother to swimming while you eat your sandwich in the car and then you finally sit down to study at 9:00 but you realize that you have physics homework that you forgot about in addition to the history packet you’re to read along with the last act of Macbeth. Before you know it, your phone says midnight, and you still have three scenes of early modern English to read. And this is only Monday.

When you sit down to take the SAT after several weeks of this pattern, the adrenaline from your brain may carry you until your body realizes that you don’t have a tiger chasing you. The caffeine from your latte may sharpen you until its effectiveness begins to wane. The sugar from your bear claw may jolt you awake until your body processes it. But if you aren’t adequately–and consistently–rested as you prepare for your exam, you might find yourself halfway through a math section trying to remember the difference between a variable and a vegetable. Poor sleep could have some dire consequences. Proper sleep habits are going to have long-term benefits.

I’m not talking only about the night before the exam. Of course you shouldn’t watch all of Ted again on that Friday. In fact, some studies show student performance after just one night of poor sleep isn’t that bad. I’m talking about your sleep over the course of weeks or months.

Your consistently poor sleep patterns don’t affect only you. It can lead to annoying teachers, friends, and family by causing you to repeat the following sentences over and over:

  • “Now, where did I put that review sheet?” (because of poor organization)
  • “I’m so stressed I can’t even.” (because of increased anxiety)
  • “I do NOT have a bad attitude.” (because of a lowered mood)

So commit to getting some solid shuteye. Have a realistic and consistent sleep and wake time. Your body likes the pattern. Limit electronics in the hours before bed. Your body likes Twelve Angry Men rather than Angry Birds. And of course, plan ahead with your schoolwork and activities to make sleep possible. Your body, mind, and exam score will all thank you.

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  • Todd Shively

    Todd Shively is an ancient graduate of Purdue University, where he changed his mind so many times that he finished with a major in English and a minor in math. He has taught high school in three different states and currently teaches in Scotland, where he lives with his family. In his spare time he bakes his own sourdough bread and tries to work those carbs off doing Crossfit.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!


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