Most students are guilty of this practice as it is not uncommon to hear phrases like “I wan go do all night” or “I wan do TDB (Till Day Break)” and so on during examination periods. Ironically, health specialists posit that loss of sleep during these night sessions could be counter-productive.
In a report published in ScienceDaily on November 21, a medical director at Harris Health Sleep Disorders Centre, Houston, Texas, Dr. Philip Alapat, says any student who does all night reading may be undoing himself.
Instead, he recommends that students should study throughout the semester, set up study sessions in the evening – the optimal time of alertness and concentration – and get at least eight hours of sleep the night before exams.
He adds that memory recall and ability to maintain concentration are better improved when an individual is rested.
“By preparing early and being able to better recall what you have studied, your ability to perform well in exams is increased,” he says.
According to the study, Alapat, who is also an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, and his staff carried out about 1,200 sleep studies a year to evaluate patients for a variety of sleep disorders, including apnea, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy and chronic fatigue syndrome.
He posits that college-aged students should ideally get eight to nine hours of sleep a night but the truth he says, is that most students generally get much less.
He says, “Any prolonged sleep deprivation will affect your mood, energy level and ability to focus, concentrate and learn – which directly affects your academic performance. Throw in the occasional all-nighter, consumption of caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea or energy drinks, and students are at risk for developing insomnia, as well as increased risks for alcohol abuse and motor vehicle accidents.
“A lot of college students graduate from high school and leave the protective family environment where they have curfews or set bed times. In college, they don’t have these guidelines for sleep and recognise that they can stay up late. This likely contributes to the sleep deprivation seen commonly in college students.”
Among Alapat’s recommendations are: get eight to nine hours of sleep nightly – especially before final exams; try to study during periods of optimal brain function – usually around 6-8 pm; avoid studying in early afternoons, which is usually the time of least alertness and do not overuse caffeinated drinks – caffeine remains in one’s system for six to eight hours.
He adds that people should recognise that chronic sleep deprivation may contribute to development of long-term diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
“If suffering from bouts of chronic sleep deprivation or nightly insomnia lasts for more than a few weeks, try consulting a sleep specialist,” he says.