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The importance of sleep when you're studying

If you're up all night pouring over your textbook, that might not be the best idea and we've rounded up the reasons why.

As a student you're probably familiar with the gross, zombie-like feeling the day after staying up late or all night studying. 

While it may sound like a good idea to smash everything out at the last minute or spend the final hours before an exam revising, did you know it's actually more likely to see you perform worse? 

Two MIT professors studied the correlation between sleep and grades and found that the less students slept during the semester, the worse their grades were. 

So no more all-nighters before a big exam? 

Unfortunately for the night owls and last minute crammers here, that's not all. Interestingly, the study also found there was no improvement found in the scores of students who made sure to get a good night's sleep before a test. 

Instead, the quality of sleep you get throughout the term or semester, when learning is happening, is the most important.

When you go to bed matters

The study found if you go to bed after 2am your performance suffers, even if you get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep. Going to bed at 10pm, midnight or even 1am and getting 7-8 hours in though won't affect how well you do. In fact, it may help you do better.

Set a bedtime and stick to it

It's all about quality over quantity. Students who averaged six and a half hours per night over the semester saw a drop of performance of 50 per cent compared to the students who got just one hour more sleep. 

As well as going to bed on time, it's important to try and get a good amount of sleep in on a consistent basis. This will not only make you feel better physically, it helps improve your memory recall – what you're learning for your future career will stick better.

See some scientists hypothesise that the region of our brain that temporarily stores information, the hippocampus, has a limited capacity.

Think of it like the photos folder on your phone: it can only hold so many images before you need to upload them to the cloud or a hard drive in order to take more photos. 

Sleep plays an important role in replenishing or making more room in our brains for new information. 

Take more naps

In the same way as getting a good nights rest can help your study performance, another study done at the University of California found that taking naps during the day helps our learning ability later in the afternoon/night. 

Especially if you're completing your studies at night, it may be helpful for you to fit a nap in between what you do during the day and study sessions or class at night. 

As human beings who know what it feels like to be tired, it's no surprise that setting a bedtime and getting a good nights sleep helps our performance. 

As you get into the nitty-gritty of studying, take this as permission to put your PJs on and get in bed. Your body, and your future, will thank you.