The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep for Maximum Learning Potential

A good night’s sleep is one of the essential factors to achieve a healthy mind and well-being. Waking up to an energized and relaxed state enables you to be completely prepared for your daily routine. Numerous studies have found that adequate sleep boosts your immune system and helps you avoid illnesses like colds, cough, sinusitis, and flu.

An effective sleep routine points to the act of sleeping itself and not does not include naps. A power nap may give you the energy boost you need instantly but isn’t as good as sleeping. Obviously, the former is just a simple form of rest that you take at any time of the day. What our brain needs is to be recharged in the same way that our bodies require complete rejuvenation and relaxation, and this can only be achieved through a complete and deep sleep.

For a student like you to complete assignments and excel in your coursework, you need adequate sleep. And in order for you to perform well in your daily routines, uninterrupted sleep within seven and nine hours is recommended for college students.

What Makes A Good Night’s Sleep?

It is common knowledge that getting the right amount of sleep offers a wealth of health benefits down the line. Apparently, the number of hours is not all there is to it because experts say sleep pattern, or the cycles in the sleep state, also plays a key role.

The three common sleep patterns include monophasic sleep or the “normal sleeping pattern” in which a person sleeps for about 8 hours each night; the biphasic sleep is where a person sleeps twice a day, and polyphasic sleep characterized by multiple sleeps, usually for up to 6 periods, each day.

None of these can be absolutely considered as the perfect sleeping pattern mainly because no two persons share the same sleep requirements to fully function day after day. If you believe your sleeping pattern is making you unhealthy, you need to consult a doctor or sleep expert.

So what influences sleep patterns?

  • Sleep Latency refers to the length of time from “lights out” to a period of sleep.
  • Sleep efficiency is the duration of time in bed compared with duration of sleeping time.
  • Wake after sleep onset (WASO) is length of wakefulness in the middle of the night before the actual length of time a person is awake.
  • Wake time after sleep offset (WASF) pertains to long periods of being awake after sudden wakefulness in the early morning.
  • REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Latency is a period between being asleep and being in REM.

College Students and Sleep Deprivation

College life and sleep deprivation seem to have a direct association, studies suggest. Most college students think that sleeping very late to get research done or study for major tests is the only way to get high marks. While that may offer short-term benefits, it does spell disaster in the long run. Sleep deprivation does not correlate with high academic performance. In fact, the opposite is true: the more sleep you get, the better your chances of getting high grades. As they say, adequate Z’s help you get more A’s!

Alarmingly, research found that college students are the most sleep-deprived among all populations! A whopping 75% of them sleep for only one or two hours on a regular basis. Roughly 19% of them admitted that their sleep habits had a negative impact on their academic performance.

Reasons for Sleep Deprivation Among Online College Students

Online college students are definitely aware of the importance of good and adequate sleep, and how it is a critical factor to their daily performance at school. Still, they admit to be sleep deprived for these reasons:

They study for exams and to beat deadlines.

To comply with the requirements of their degree programs, online students do their best to submit assignments on time and stay up late to study for major exams simultaneously. It’s hard to not neglect sleep in the process.

They suffer from sleep disorders.

According to a study published in the Journal of American College Health, 27% of college students are at risk of sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, circadian rhythm sleep disorder, and periodic limb movement disorder.

They use gadgets and social media excessively.

Online college students frequently use laptops, desktops, and even mobile phones in their coursework. However,  exposure to these devices for an extended period leads to sleep deprivation. This is attributed to radiation that the devices emit, as well as prolonged, irresponsible use until way past bedtime. Instead of sleeping, they chat, scroll through their Facebook feed, read tweets, and even watch videos on YouTube.

They party too hard.

Late night parties are part and parcel of university life, and the same goes for online students. Socializing with friends help them relax and forget their academic worries for a while. The bad news? Constantly staying up late can wreak havoc on the brain and the body. Partying all night results in erratic sleep schedules.

They are exposed to stress, alcohol, and drugs.

The stresses and pressures of deadlines and exams in college drive countless of online students to resort to alcohol and drugs as a way to “de-stress” themselves. While certain types of drugs and alcohol stimulate sleep, abuse of these substances causes erratic sleep patterns and frequent wakefulness in the middle of the night.

They consume excessive amounts of caffeine and energy drinks.

Most online college students often drink caffeinated beverages and energy drinks to help them stay awake and focused while studying. According to the American College of Medical Toxicology, 34% of college students between the ages of 18 and 24 constantly reach for energy drinks, coffee, or soda. When consumed excessively and on high levels, these beverages cause disrupted sleep.

Adequate Sleep and Learning Potential

The learning potential generally involves three brain processes, namely: acquisition, consolidation, and recall or review. Acquisition happens when the brain accepts relevant information and retains it in the memory region. Consolidation involves the strengthening and extension of brain connections to stabilize memory. The final step is called Recall, during which stored information is utilized and acquired to remember past and present memories. The lack of sleep has a negative impact on all three learning processes, and in turn affects a student’s ability to focus while studying.

Did you know that the most crucial phase of sleep for memory consolidation occurs right after learning something? Unhealthy sleep habits impede your ability to consolidate past or recent memories. Ultimately, sleep deprivation causes your memory retention capacity to dwindle. Contrary to common belief, sleep cannot be recovered after a few days of staying up all night studying (or partying, for that matter).

On the contrary, adequate sleep provides a great deal of positive effects on our physical and mental well-being. Numerous researches on the relationship of sleep and brain activity reveal that when it comes to maximizing potential, online college students who get enough sleep have the obvious advantage.

Here’s a video highlighting why a good night’s sleep is important and how it helps online college students perform better academically:

High Exam Scores

Ghent University and KU Leuven researchers suggest that if students increase their sleeping hours, they perform better in exams. While the concept of “ideal sleep” is different for every individual, sleeping at least seven to nine hours daily can help online college students gain high marks.

A study argued that the length of time students sleep, not the quality of their sleep, is the primary factor that affects exam results. As new information is being incorporated in the brain during a state of deep rest, longer sleep helps promote higher cognitive performance and greater motivation among online college students.

Improved Creativity

Harvard University and Boston College researchers have found that the emotional aspects of memory are developed during sleep. The brain rebuilds, reorganizes, and strengthens combined memories that stir student creativity. Online college students should get the right amount and quality of sleep–particularly those leaning towards the Arts, Literature, and Architecture–for enhanced creativity.

Enhanced Memory and Focus

Our memory undergoes the process of consolidation or strengthening when we are asleep. Certain parts of the brain also become more active after a sufficient amount of sleep. According to Dr. Rapoport of the NYU Langone Medical Center, improved learning normally happens when we take time to sleep rather than stay up all night studying. Sleep also contributes to the process of reviewing lessons and raises your chances of retaining information and memorizing them.

Brain Cleansing

An ample amount of sleep literally unloads the brain of harmful toxins. According to a 2013 National Institutes study, harmful toxins accumulate during periods of wakefulness. These toxins are extremely harmful as they are thought to contribute to neurodegenerative diseases like the early onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. By getting enough sleep, you’re giving your brain a favor!

Vocabulary Building

Based on research, verbal cues are normally active when an individual is in a state of rest. These verbal cues though, are present even in a state of wakefulness but reactivate combined memories only when we are asleep. If you want to enhance your vocabulary building and recall, start by getting adequate and quality sleep.

Better grades

Students with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, snoring, and inconsistent breathing are more susceptible to learning problems and suffer from a lack of focus. A survey conducted by the University of Georgia found that sleep deprivation among college students resulted in disappointing grades. In worse cases, it led to increased student dropout and degree transfers. In another study, it was discovered that college students with erratic sleep schedules had poor performance in their courses. The research concluded that sleeping well is a surefire way for college students to obtain good grades and perform better academically.

Reduced Academic Stress

Stress caused by online course deadlines, exams, school projects, and difficult classes is one of the most pressing health adversities college students need to put an end to. There is evidence that too much academic stress may lead to anxiety, hypertension, and heart diseases.

To combat these serious health obstacles, online students should not take adequate sleep for granted. A good night’s sleep “neutralizes” the effects of stress in the body. Sleep also helps reduce cholesterol levels and high blood pressure that can lead to coronary diseases.

Decreased Risk of Depression

Online college students often experience anxiety and depression. That is what an ardent desire to complete your coursework and graduate on time can do to you! Thankfully, there is an easy way to keep your mental health and emotions in check amid the chaos that is college life.

Research studies from the Academy of Sleep Medicine underscores importance of sleep in preventing and reducing the risk of depression due to academic-related concerns. Based on the Cognitive Therapy and Research Study, the length of your sleep is directly related to the condition of your thoughts and emotions, good or bad. An ample amount of good sleep also helps regulate a student’s mood and stabilizes emotions, says a separate research. The idea is to strike a balance in your sleep schedules because sleeping long hours on weekends does not make up for the sleep deprivation you had to endure on weekdays.

Oftentimes, sleep is neglected in an attempt to balance academics, work, social activities, and family life. While it is definitely possible for individuals to survive even with very little sleep, sleep deprivation puts our mental health and physical well-being on high risk of being disrupted.

Time and again, findings from numerous studies point to the importance of a good night’s sleep for all online college students. Indeed, the significance of adequate sleep cannot be overstated; it is a crucial factor to achieving maximum learning potential and earning academic success.

Sleep plays a major role in the different aspects of an online student’s learning potential. Neglecting it has irreparable consequences to your brain and body.

Are you an online student who is getting enough sleep? Drop everything and get some Z’s!