Lack of Sleep May Affect Student Grades

by Staff

Undeclared sophomore Adam McCarty sometimes pulls the infamous”all-nighter,” then passes a test with flying colors.

However, business management junior Jim Maertz said lack of sleephinders his ability to perform well on tests.

So, what should students do the night before an exam — sleep orstudy?

Because of the supposed link between Rapid Eye Movement sleep andmemory formation, popular theory favors getting a good night’s rest.

REM sleep, the dreaming stage, is one of the most hotly debatedtopics among sleep researchers today.

Researchers agree that sleep deprivation negatively affectsstudents’ ability to retain and recall information. But the specificfunction of REM sleep in memory and learning is still in question.

Jerome Siegel, a researcher at the University of California, LosAngeles, said evidence does not show that REM sleep is needed formemory consolidation.

In an article published Nov. 2 in Science Magazine, Siegelconcluded that the link between REM sleep and learning is “weak andcontradictory.”

Some of the controversy among researchers comes from the kinds oflearning tasks that are affected by REM sleep. Siegel said that theonly claim being advanced is that REM sleep can aid in procedurallearning, which refers to skills such as riding a bike.

Declarative learning, which is what college students engage in,constitutes memorizing things like important history dates or theperiodic table of elements.

The distinction has often been muddled between the two types oflearning, thus leading to the popular myth that a good night’s sleepmeans higher test scores.

Sleep studies done on animals and humans draw similar conclusions:REM sleep and intelligence have no relationship.

Scientists consider dolphins and whales intelligent. They spendless than 12 minutes of their 10-hour sleep period in REM sleep.

Siegel points to the case of an Israeli soldier that was hit byflying shrapnel. He suffered a brain lesion that prohibited him fromentering REM sleep. But after his injury, the man completed lawschool, became a practicing lawyer and ran the logic section of anewspaper.

Many neurologists spent their entire careers studying this caseand a decade of close observation has found no memory problems withthis man.

However, Siegel said that he does not advocate lack of sleep. Hesaid that his research proves that one must be awake to learn.

“Clearly, if you are tired when you study, you won’t retain theinformation,” Siegel said. “When you take an exam, you have to bealert.”

But there are still some people that can pull the “all-nighter”and pass exams with no problems.

History senior Christina Castillo said that she could study until3 a.m., wake up at 7 a.m. and do really well on an exam.

“The amount of knowledge you retain has to do with your studyinghabits, not your sleeping patterns,” Castillo said.

Researchers at University of California, San Diego found aconnection between grade-point average and sleep. It was reportedthat students who woke up later on school days had higher grade pointaverages.

But, that study had to do with the amount of time it took forstudents to fall asleep, the length of their sleep periods and thenumber of naps they took during school days. It did not refer to REMsleep deprivation and its effects on learning.

“I haven’t made (a) new discovery,” Siegel said. “We don’t knowwhat REM sleep is for.”

But Siegel did confirm that college students rank first among thesleep-deprived.