Sleep when the sun is down, not during class. PHOTO: Natalia Balcerzak

Sleep your way to better grades

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By Nicole Schmidt 

Do you like sleep? If the answer is yes, then I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but finding the time to get some decent shut-eye is about to become a lot more difficult.

Late nights spent slaving away at your desk makes finding the time to get a healthy amount of sleep seem impossible. Although your intentions for staying awake may be positive most of the time, you might actually be doing more harm than good.

“A lack of sleep causes you to preform poorly. It’s as simple as that,” said Richard Horner, professor of medicine and physiology at the Univer- sity of Toronto. “Studies have actually shown that people who stay awake for 20 hours preform at the same cognitive ability as those who are legally drunk.”

Poor performance can occur because during the later hours of the evening, the brain naturally begins shutting down for sleep. Horner said that when people try to work through this period,

their ability to retain and recall information becomes inefficient because their regular sleep cycles are disrupted.

“The dreaming and the non-dreaming stages and the order in which they normally happen promotes the effective incorporation of memory, as well as the ability to retrieve it,” said Horner. “When people start falling asleep beyond their normal bedtimes, this distribution becomes jumbled up.”

For this reason, the best way to study efficiently is to get enough sleep at night.

But it can be difficult to know exactly how much sleep is the right amount. Most would agree that eight hours sounds right, but that isn’t necessarily true. Horner says that the amount of sleep each person needs varies.

“To say that everyone needs eight hours of sleep is the same as saying everyone wears a size eight shoe,” said Horner.

To judge how much sleep you should be getting, Horner suggests that you use your alarm clock. If it wakes you up gently, odds are, you’re getting enough sleep. If it wrenches you awake, you should aim for a few more hours per night.

The more sleep that you incorporate into your schedule, the better your academic performance will be. Although it’s usually easier to find time to sleep during class than it is during the evening, shifting your priorities may help you get in those much-needed hours at night.

Horner recalls a piece of advice he was given that has helped him with managing his sleep. He says that this advice could be just as helpful for other students as it has been for him.

“The advice was to stop working at 9 p.m. I followed this throughout university and I still follow it. After nine I do something relaxing, go to sleep, wake up the next day, and then off I go again,” he said.

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