Sacrificing sleep for study is counterproductive and can actually lead to more future academic problems, according to a new study.
Researchers monitored 535 students as they progressed through ninth, 10th and 12th grade to see how lack of sleep affected their academic performance and found that, regardless of how much high school students usually study each day, students who sacrifice sleep in order to hit the books are more likely to have academic problems the following day.
In a study published in the journal Child Development, researchers from the University of California in Los Angeles asked teenage participants to complete homework, sleep diaries and whether they experienced academic trouble for 14 days in each of the 9th, 10th and 12th grades.
Examples of academic problems participants reported included having trouble understanding something taught in class or performing poorly on a test, quiz or homework.
Results of the study showed that teenagers who regularly stayed up late to study were more likely to be confused in class or perform poorly on a test, which was opposite of the students' intent.
"Sacrificing sleep for extra study time is counterproductive," lead researcher Professor Andrew J. Fuligni, of the Jane and Terry Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA said in a statement. "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."
"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," he explained. "Although these nights of extra studying may seem necessary, they can come at a cost."
Researchers noted that the latest findings do not indicate that teens should spend less time studying overall, but that teens who frequently give up sleep to study are have academic problems the following day.