Can sleeping really make you smarter?

While sitting in my 8 a.m. class, sipping my Starbucks for the third day in a row, I realized that this cannot be healthy. I couldn’t focus in class and all I could think about was how few hours of sleep I had gotten the night before.

As many of us begin to have our first exams of the semester, it may be getting harder and harder to catch up on sleep. With roommates, co-curricular’s, parties and studying, it’s hard enough to stay on track. But what if I told you that keeping a consistent amount of sleep each night could make your grades go up and your body feeling more energized and focused throughout the day?

The average college student gets 6.5 hours of sleep a night and that number gets even lower throughout the course of the year. We are among the most sleep deprived people in the country. The necessary amount of sleep varies from person to person, but most people should be sleeping at least a full eight hours.

I did some research, and it’s actually been proven that during sleep, the facts we memorized that day get moved from our short-term memory into our long-term memory. It takes a long time for us to move into these later stages of sleep, but once we do, that is when our brain has the capacity to store fact-based memories. This means if you’re sleeping six hours or less, you’re getting ripped off.


An ideal nap is between 20-30 minutes long. Less than that isn’t enough, and more than that will most likely leave you more tired. The best time to squeeze one in is during the mid-afternoon.

“When I’m studying and I start to get tired, instead of trying to fight it with caffeine, I take a short nap,” senior Kasey Ryan said. “After I wake up I feel much more focused and productive with my studies.”

Taking a quick nap in between exams may help too. Refresh and recharge.


Bad, bad, bad!

A lot of college students like to pull all-nighters, especially before exams. Did you know that this actually decreases the ability to learn new material by about 40 percent because parts of the brain start to shut down? It is possible to memorize facts all night and recall them the next morning through short-term memory, but you will most likely have to relearn them later for cumulative finals.

Alcohol and caffeine

Yes, we sometimes feel the need to consume excessive amounts of alcohol, coffee, and energy drinks, but these mess with our sleeping patterns. It makes sense that we can’t get into the stages of sleep that we need if we keep waking up throughout the night. Alcohol and caffeine make us more restless and therefore feel less refreshed in the morning.


How can we dedicate that much time to sleep with such busy schedules?

  • Turn off all electronics one hour before going to sleep. Bright screens send signals to the brain that we’re still awake.
  • Use evening time to study. You’re more attentive and in a few hours, all of that info will hopefully get moved into you’re long term memory.
  • Finish eating food three hours before going to sleep.
  • Turn your bedroom into a cool, dark, and noise free atmosphere. Unfortunately, if you’re in a dorm this may be harder than it seems.
  • If you’re having trouble falling asleep, get up and do something productive until you’re feeling sleepy again.
  • “I try to set out my clothes the night before and put my books in my book bag,” senior Amber Siebeneck said. “It gives me less of a morning routine so I can sleep in longer.”
  • Write down stressful problems instead of thinking about them while trying to sleep.
  • Last but not least, set a bed time. You should only vary times of sleeping by one hour, even on weekends. Junior Pamela Fernandez says, “I try to go to bed and wake up at the same time that way I’m staying consistent with my sleep schedule.”