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Sacrificing Sleep to Study Can Backfire

Sacrificing Sleep to Study Backfires for StudentsA new study finds that high school students who sacrifice sleep time to study actually have more academic problems the following day.

“Sacrificing sleep for extra study time is counterproductive,” said Andrew J. Fuligni, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and a senior scientist at the  Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, who worked on the study.

“Academic success may depend on finding strategies to avoid having to give up sleep to study, such as maintaining a consistent study schedule across days, using school time as efficiently as possible, and sacrificing time spent on other, less essential activities.”

Researchers asked 535 Los Angeles-area high school students, in grades 9, 10 and 12, to keep a diary for 14 days chronicling how long they studied, how long they slept, and whether or not they experienced academic problems, such as not understanding something taught in class or doing poorly on a test, quiz, or homework. The students represented a mix of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.

The researchers said they expected that extra hours of studying that ate into sleep time might create problems in terms of students’ understanding of what they were taught in class.

But they were surprised to find that cutting into sleep to study was actually associated with doing more poorly on a test, quiz, or homework — the opposite of the students’ intent.

“As other studies have found, our results indicated that extra time spent studying cuts into adolescents’ sleep on a daily basis, and it is this reduced sleep that accounts for the increase in academic problems that occurs after days of increased studying,” Fuligni said.

“Although these nights of extra studying may seem necessary, they can come at a cost.”

The study was published in the journal Child Development.

Source: Society for Research in Child Development

Tired student with head down on desk photo by shutterstock.

Sacrificing Sleep to Study Can Backfire

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2018). Sacrificing Sleep to Study Can Backfire. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 21, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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