Studying before sleeping may help after all

Kristen Koehler

As the end of the semester approaches for Northern Michigan University students, finding time to study moves toward the top of the seemingly endless to-do list.

More often than not, studying for exams means less sleep for students who also have busy work schedules, projects to finish and papers to write.

However, according to “The Benefit of Sleep, the Cost of Wake,” a research article published in the Public Library of Science ONE Journal, sleep plays a beneficial role in memory retention and should not be neglected.

Mark Dellangelo, assistant director of the Academic and Career Advisement Center, agrees that distractions and adequate sleep impact a student’s ability to recall study material.

“Although I am not familiar with the study, I do agree that less distractions, while preparing for an exam, is better,” Dellangelo said. “The students’ focus while preparing for an exam should be the material in front of them. A good night’s sleep is also very important.”

Although it’s sometimes hard for students to justify while neck deep in history notes at the LRC, sleep is useful amid the whirlwind of finals week.

The study, which was approved by Harvard Medical School, analyzed the impact of sleep, wake and time of day on processing information.

Participants were instructed to study semantically related and unrelated word pairs and then return for testing after a 30-minute, 12-hour or 24-hour delay.

A group from each time interval studied the material at 9 a.m. as well as 9 p.m. to analyze the effect time of day has on memory.

The completion of the study came to several conclusions. After the brief 30-minute delay, time of day had no influence on an individual’s ability to recall either word pair type.

The 12-hour retest concluded memory after a night’s rest was greater than retesting after a full day of wakefulness filled with life’s daily distractions.

Allison Mooradian, a junior public relations major, has embarked on her fair share of all-night study sessions on the third floor of the library.

“Once you hit 4 a.m. there’s no turning back,” Mooradian said. “I do try to sleep a little bit but sometimes you just can’t.

Overall the 24-hour retest proved that after all participants received a full night of sleep and full day of wakefulness, the individuals whose sleep occurred soon after studying had better memory retention. This research reveals that sleep aids in the stabilization of memory.

Avoiding noise and being in a comfortable space make studying at odd hours more bearable for busy students like Mooradian.

“Occasionally after studying all night I do really well, but other times it’s on the lower spectrum, so I’d say grade-wise it’s about 50-50.”

While sleep positively impacts memory, there are a multitude of studying techniques students can practice to get the most out of their time and effort.

“Make good decisions and don’t let outside influences distract you from what you think is important,” Dellangelo said. “Prioritize your time and resources. Begin studying now if you haven’t already.”

Dellangelo also recommends students visit the ACAC skill development website, which has more information regarding college success strategies and academic skills.

Students can access this information at www.nmu.edu/acac.