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15 Ways How Sleep Can Improve Academic Performance


Adequate sleep and student’s performance go hand in hand. Between social activities, classes, exams, homework, and extracurricular activities, students are devoid of sleep.

How can sleep improve Academic Performance?

  1. Improves memory.
  2. Sharpens attention.
  3. Boosts concentration.
  4. Improves progress and grades.
  5. Boosts immunity.
  6. Decreased risk of obesity
  7. Improves mood.
  8. Maintains circadian clock.
  9. Reduces instances of mental health disorders.
  10. Boosts decision making.
  11. Makes you more creative.
  12. Improves athlete performance.
  13. Improves coordination.
  14. Boosts brain development.
  15. Prevent diseases.

It’s easy to see, just from that list that adequate sleep plays a massive part in ensuring students perform well at school (and at home). Later in this post, we will go into detail about each of the benefits.

Let the students sleep; it boosts their performance at school.

This lack of sleep can have an impact on their progress as well as their health.

Besides, researchers at the Douglas Mental Health University and McGill University have shown that students who get sufficient sleep score better.

All in all, to get more A’s, they need to have enough Z’s!

Here is how much sleep is adequate, how to get it, and how sleep can improve their performance.

So, without further ado, let’s begin

How Much Sleep Is Sufficient for a Student?

It’s no secret that students skimp on sleep to get most out of the day, especially during exams. It is seen that almost 70% of students do not get sufficient sleep, which has an impact on their performance.

So, getting good sleep is beneficial, but how much is considered as good?

Well, it depends on the age group of students.

According to the (CDC) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, students between the age of 6 to 12 need 9 to 12 hours of sleep; for teenagers, 8 to 10 hours of sleep is essential, while for young adults, it is 7 to 9 hours.

Girl Sleeping With Her Brown Plush Toy

Apart from hours of sleep, other factors also matter, such as:

  • Sleep efficiency: It’s the total hours in bed to hours spent in sleeping.
  • Sleep latency: It’s the time required from the moment you lie on the bed and time that you get to sleep.
  • REM latency: It is the time between sleep and the onset of REM sleep.
  • Wake time after sleep offset: It’s the duration of wakefulness after early morning awakening.

So, a good night’s sleep is a blend of quality and quantity of hours you sleep.

Did You Know: “REM sleep is characterised especially by greatly depressed muscle tone, dreaming with vivid imagery, rapid eye movements, and increased neuronal activity in certain brain regions, and typically comprises up to 25% of time spent in sleep”.

Sleep and Academic Performance

There are various ways in which sleep can influence academic performance. Rest and sleep allow the brain and body to make imperative connections and grow and repair itself.

Various studies have shown how these imperative connections aid to reinforce learning.

Girl in Blue T-shirt Reading Book

According to NINDS, nerve-signalling that occurs during the day is mirrored while you sleep.

Researchers believe that these nerve-signalling repetitions help to encode information, data, and memories, which improves learning. 

Besides, there is a direct link between adequate sleep and a student’s performance. 

According to the American Sleep Association, less than 8 hours of sleep decreases cognitive functions.

I may keep on going, but everything will ultimately boil to one thing, “Students with regular sleep habits aid their brain to grow and rest, improving their academic success”.

So, how does it happen?

How Sleep Can Improve Academic Performance?

Here is a list of 15 ways sleep improves mental and physical health and, thus, academic performance.

Better Sleep, Better Memory

School and college students are bombarded with tons of new information every day during waking hours.

During the REM sleep phase, the brain structures, and processes the information learned throughout the day into existing schemata. So, the better the REM sleep, the better is your brain at storing new information in the long term memory.

It is thus essential to get adequate sleep before exams.

Many studies have shown that quantity and quality of sleep influence your learning and memory. During sleep, your brain consolidates and strengthens your mind, which is vital to retain new information.

Photo of Head Bust Print Artwork

Furthermore, sleep is also crucial for procedural memory – a memory that enhances your visual and motor training. So, procedural memory is involved in activities, such as roller-skating or playing the piano.

Besides, sleep supports the emotional components of our memories, which spurs your creativity.

However, low-quality sleep and sleep deprivation negatively affects your memory and lowers the ability to retain new information.

All in all, adequate sleep aids the student’s brain to store information and strengthens memory.

Better Sleep Sharpens Student Attention Span

Low attention span alters judgment, ability to assess situations, and ability to make rational decisions.

Inadequate sleep negatively affects your focus and optimal attention.

Besides, sleep-deprived and over-worked students would find it difficult to coordinate multiple pieces of information and reduce their retrieval capabilities.

According to studies, students who are deprived of sleep have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-like symptoms, which affects their concentration at school or college.

Quality sleep improves the student’s attention and aids in the better recalling of information.

Better Sleep Boosts Student Concentration

Attention is all about concentration and focus, the ability to be in line with your tasks, long enough to sustain meaningful progress. 

Woman Wearing Blue Jacket Sitting on Chair Near Table Reading Books

Concentration is the key to a sense of purpose and performance, in and away from academics.

As sleep deprivation affects attention, it results in difficulty to concentrate and harder to achieve what they want.

Sleep is thus essential for optimal concentration.

Better Sleep Improves Student Progress and Grades

Various studies have proved a link between the students’ sleep and their grades.

Research conducted by the University of Georgia suggests a significant correlation between inadequate sleep and a negative impact on grades. In some cases, it even caused students to withdraw from a course.

Success Text

Another study has also shown that students with irregular sleep cycles performed poorly in academics as compared to those with a regular sleep cycle.

So, encourage students to sleep their way for better grades.

Better Sleep Boosts Immunity in Students

Students who lack sleep are more likely to get sick as it affects their immune system

The body releases cytokines during sleep, which are required to fight infection and stress.

If students are chronically getting inadequate sleep, cytokine production is lowered, and their body releases fewer antibodies, reducing their immunity and making them susceptible to infection.

Besides, sleep deprivation also increases their recovery time in case they get a cold or flu.

Overall, sleep is essential for optimal functioning of the immune system.

Better Sleep Leads to Decreased Risk of Obesity

Have you wondered why pizza and all-night cramming go together? When students are sleep deprived, their body releases ghrelin – the hunger hormone, which triggers appetite and promotes fat storage.

Furthermore, sleep promotes the release of leptin – a hormone to curb appetite.

Scrabble Pieces On A Plate

So, when you are awake, the body craves for high-calorie foods, resulting in weight gain.

All in all, reduced sleep increases the risk of obesity.

Better Sleep Improves your Mood

Have you noticed that you tend to be grumpy if you don’t get enough sleep?

Why does this happen?

Photo of Toddler Smiling

Well, inadequate sleep alters levels of hormones, such as dopamine, serotonin, and cortisol, which affects your mood, thoughts, and energy.

Adequate sleep promotes mental well-being. 

Research shows that even one night of inadequate or disturbed sleep can cause students to be irritable, moody, and sluggish the next day.

Also, long-term sleep deprivation can result in mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

So, next time you find a student that is always disturbed, enquire about his/her sleep cycle.

Better Sleep Helps Maintains Your Circadian Clock

The normal circadian clock is essential for cognition and coordination.

Circadian clock or rhythm is your body’s 24-hour internal clock, which runs in the background of your brain and cycles between alertness and sleepiness at regular intervals. This cycle is also known as the sleep/wake cycle.

The abnormal sleep/wake cycle increases the risk of mental and physical health disorders, affecting students’ performance.

Regular sleep maintains the circadian cycle, improving the student’s concentration and overall performance.

Better Sleep Reduces Instances of Mental Health Conditions in Students

Inadequate sleep can make students feel hopeless and also suicidal in some instances.

According to a study by the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, students with early morning school timings were more prone to mental health disorders.

The study showed that for each hour of sleep loss, there was an increase in hopeless feelings by 38% and suicidal thoughts by 42%. Furthermore, a single hour of sleep loss increases the risk of suicidal attempts by 58%.

Want your student to be healthy mentally? Sleeping is an easy way of achieving it.

Boosts Student Decision Making Ability

Decision making and sleep go hand in hand.

The judgment aids in balancing reward and risk, which becomes difficult when you are sleep deprived.

The prefrontal cortex – the area of the brain responsible for decision making and planning, aids you to make nuanced, complicated judgment calls.

According to research, chronic sleep loss results in an increased risk of engaging in risky behaviour.

So, the self-control provided by the prefrontal cortex is lost when you are sleep deprived, which affects the performance of students.

Sleep well to improve decision making and avoiding risky behaviours.

Better Sleep Helps Make Students More Creative

Many students may have noticed that creativity boosts when there is intense demand, and one cannot sleep.

But does it mean avoiding sleep boosts creativity?

No. It is instead the other way round.

According to research, REM sleep is vital for inspiration and creative thinking.

Clear Light Bulb Placed on Chalkboard

REM is the sleep type when you dream vividly and actively. Every time you have a complete sleep cycle, you get REM segments throughout. Also, REM becomes longer as time progresses, and the heaviest dose occurs during the last third of your sleep.

So, reducing sleep time may cause you to miss the creativity-boosting effects of REM sleep.

All in all, adequate sleep boosts the creativity of students.

Better Sleep Helps Improve Athletic Performance

All of us know that exercising is essential for students, especially student-athletes, to stay healthy and fit.

But did you know that getting your Z’s is the simplest way of doing it?

Black confident sportswomen wearing team uniform

Studies have shown that football playing students, who slept for at least 10 hours for 7 to 8 weeks, had less fatigue.

 Adequate sleep improved their stamina and average sprint time.

Better Sleep Helps Improve Coordination

It is a no brainer that when the students are sleep deprived, they are not as coordinated or alert.

It seems like it may not be a big deal for students, right?

But it is not so.

For instance, if a student-athlete is sleep-deprived, he or she will not have optimal coordination that would alter their performance and could cause them to pick up an injury or worse cause their team to lose.

Besides, according to the research of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, where 1039 students were polled on their experience with driving while tired; 2% of students said they were involved in accidents because of sleep deprivation, and 16% were drowsy while driving due to lack of sleep.

Encourage students to sleep to boost their coordination.

Better Sleep Helps Boost Brain Development

Inadequate sleep can be detrimental to brain development, especially for teens.

So, how does it happen?

Basal ganglia (a part of the brain) is important for learning, addictive behaviour and habit formation.

The basal ganglia develop during adolescence, and if students lack sleep during this period, they are more likely to have decreased activity in this part of the brain. It ultimately affects risk-taking behaviour.

Put simply, sleep boosts the development of the brain area essential for learning and habit formation.

Better Sleep Helps Prevent Diseases

As we learned before sleep is essential for maintaining immunity. Sleep aids in preventing diseases and keeping the students healthy, boosting their performance.

Apart from academics, sleep deprivation increases the risk of various health disorders, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

So, students should sleep well to be physically and mentally healthy.

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How to Help the Child to Get the Sleep They Need

While no one likes bedtime battle, certain tips can help students to get the right sleep.

Girl Lying on Bed

Some of them are:

  • Creating a sleep-friendly environment
  • Sticking to a regular sleeping schedule
  • Restrictive caffeine intake
  • Avoiding electronics before bedtime
  • Limiting nap time
  • Avoiding to sleep with the TV on
  • Creating an environment that enhances sleep


Good quality and duration of sleep keep the students refreshed, alert and boost their academic performance.

Appropriate sleep is also essential for memory, concentration, and performance at school. So, motivate students to get better sleep by improving their sleep cycle and other tips mentioned above.

All in all, help students to get sufficient sleep to boost their performance at school and improve the quality of their life.

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Sleep Can Improve Academic Performance FAQs

How much sleep should a school child get?

According to the (CDC) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, students between the age of 6 to 12 need 9 to 12 hours of sleep; for teenagers, 8 to 10 hours of sleep is essential, while for young adults, it is 7 to 9 hours.

What are the best ways for a school child to get adequate sleep?

Creating a sleep-friendly environment
Have a regular sleeping routine
No caffeine for several hours before bed
No going on electronic devices before bedtime
Limit daytime naps
Switch the TV off before getting into bed
Creating an environment that enhances sleep

Paul Fulbrookhttps://teacherofsci.com
Paul Fulbrook (TeacherOfSci) is a Science teacher, writer and education blogger based in Brighton, England. He started teacherofsci.com to help support teachers everywhere with the everyday struggles that they are all faced with, both in the classroom and at home.

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