There’s no argument against it: sleep is important. Some people are born with a natural ability to achieve good grades with very little effort, although this is not the case for most students. Most students need to work hard, study hard, and sleep hard in order to get top marks. Is sleep really something that contributes to good grades? According to Dr. Russell Foster, Director of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford, “sleep is the most effective cognitive enhancer we have.”
The Importance of Sleep
You don’t need to be a doctor to understand that sleep is important. Teenagers require approximately 8.5 hours of sleep each night in order to perform their best in school, especially the nights leading up to tests. According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, up to 40 percent of Canadian teenagers are sleep deprived.
Teens have a bit of a difficult double standard for acquiring enough sleep. Their school typically starts around 8am and that means their mornings can start quite early, but teen’s melatonin is produced later at night than kids or adults making it more challenging for them to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. Melatonin is a brain hormone linked to the body’s sleep function. This means that although teens require more sleep, with modern lifestyles their bodies aren’t exactly programmed to get it.
How Sleep and Grades Go Hand in Hand
Although this may seem like a great excuse for teenagers to perform poorly, it’s just another hurdle they need to get over to achieve academic success. When you are tired it’s difficult to stay awake during a long lecture let alone absorb it and fully understand it and take adequate notes.
Your brain does a lot of work while you’re sleeping, specifically pertaining to memory retention. Your memory functions are affected by how little or how much sleep you get, and no matter how hard you studied for a test if you don’t allow your body to sleep it will not be absorbed properly and reflect correctly when you go to put pen to paper.
How to Get More (and Better) Sleep
There are some tricks you can do in order to get your body ready for bed earlier in the night.
- Try to avoid all electronic devices – yes this seems like an impossible task – that have a back light. This includes watching television and checking your phone. The lights in these devices keep your brain active and alert and make it difficult to change to sleep mode.
- Try simply reading a paper book with a regular reading lamp right before going to sleep, listening to a calming podcast or audiobook, or doing some stretching and meditation.
- Allow your body to be in a calm relaxing environment free from the dings and buzzes of social media on your smartphone. Put your phone into bedside mode or turn it off completely.
- An old, sagging mattress could also be a factor holding you back from getting quality sleep. If your mattress is over 10 years old, consider upgrading to a new mattress that will offer better support and comfort.
Although teenagers have enough to worry about on a daily basis, worrying about getting enough sleep should be a top priority. It will help in so many other stressful areas of daily life and will help get report card grades you will be happy to bring home!