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Sleep and academics

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‘College students are just older adolescents and are still dealing with adolescent physiology, such as a delayed sleep phase” (Carskadon et al. 2004; Gaultney 2010). According to the National Sleep Foundation, “59% of adults 18 to 29 years of age describe themselves as night-owls.” Being “night-owls” has led to a lack of sleep due to responsibilities such as school and/or work and results in poor sleep quality. Additionally, sleep may be disregarded due to social factors or because of living in a noisy residence hall, apartment, or home (National Sleep Foundation, 2010). According to Gaultney (2010), adolescents sleep patterns and school performance found that a typical coping technique for dealing with sleep deprivation is the attempt to make up for lost sleep by increasing sleep, a practice that has been proven to worsen sleep deprivation (Wolfson et al. 2003; Gaultney 2010). According to Gaultney (2010), studies have shown sleep problems have been correlated with negative impacts on attention and academic performance, social relationships, and poorer health (Gaultney 2010).

The study is claiming that a lack of attention is due to the poor sleep health of the adolescents and this in turn is negatively impacting academic performance because the student cannot adequately focus on the material that is being given. Burns et al. (2018) further supported the importance of sleep and found that adolescents who reported achieving three or more health behaviors had significantly higher odds of achieving mostly A’s and B’s compared to adolescents meeting only 0–2 health behaviors. The health behaviors being measured in this study were physical activity, diet, sleep, and mental wellness strategies. This study supports the link between daily physical activity, diet, and academic achievement in a sample of Nevada adolescents. “The results of this study can be used to support and inform school and community-based interventions with aims to employ multicomponent health behavior modification to improve academic achievement in adolescents” (Burns et al., 2018). Sleep deprivation can be harmful to students. According to Abdulghani et al., (2012) a high correlation has been demonstrated between sleep duration and performance in some activities as well as subjective alertness (Ravid et al. 2009; Abdulghani et al. 2012).

Learning disabilities can be challenging for students and impact academic success if proper support is not given, these high stress situations can lead to psychiatric disorders, increase psychosocial stress, and other dysfunctions that can lead to challenging circumstances for a student that can possibly be decreased with insomnia or sleep dysfunction (Eliasson et al. 2010; Abdulghani et al. 2012). Additionally, Abdulghani et al., (2012) found that positive relationships between sufficient sleep schedules, moderate to vigorous physical activity, healthy social life, and general health has been consistent with subjective life satisfaction and acceptable performance indicators (Parkerson et al. 1990; Rodigues et al. 2002; Eliasson et al. 2010; Abdulghani et al. 2012). Sleep deprivation can affect many aspects of life due to its all encompassing nature and the side effects it can have on physical, social, mental health can negatively impact academic performance. The life of a college student can be stressful and busy, “In 2000, 71% of college students reported sleep‐related problems, a nearly threefold increase from 1978 and more than twice the percent of adults in the general population reporting sleep‐related problems” (Tsai et al. 2004; Nelson et al. 2012). When the demands of college occur, sleep is something that takes a back seat. This study reinforce the impact of sleep and its impact on academic performance as well as other factors that have a role in sleep.

Leproult & Van Cauter (2010) have expressed how important sleep is in autonomous tasks in life and how it can play a major role in our everyday functions. “Compared to a few decades ago, adults, as well as children, sleep less. Sleeping as little as possible is often seen as an admirable behavior in contemporary society…sleep plays a major role in neuroendocrine function and glucose metabolism…sleep duration may have adverse health effects has emerged in the past 10 years.” (Leproult & Van Cauter, 2010) The brain is powered through glucose and is its main source for energy, if the proper amount of sleep is not attained then glucose metabolism will not occur leading to unideal state for human-beings. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (2008) obesity is affecting “industrialized countries” and the increasing rates among children are cause for concern. People that are deemed to be overweight by national health standards and body mass index profiles have increased from 5% in 1971 to just below 15% in 2004 for each category(adolescent, teenager, adult) and have no indications for slowing down (Journal of the American Medical Association, 2008). Along with obesity rise, physiological issue have been prevalent of late and mental health awareness has become something our society is now aware of and the seriousness of it.

Warburton, (2006) found that “Psychological well-being is important for the prevention and managing of cardiovascular disease as well as others such as diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, obesity, cancer and depression” (Warburton, 2006). The interconnectedness that our body experiences through its different functions are all dependent on one another and sleep deprivation plays an important role in our lives, without sleep, our lives and academic performance will be hard to maintain healthy levels. Perkinson-Gloor et al., (2013) a less positive attitude attitude toward life has been perceived from sleeping less than 8 hours per night. Additionally, lack of sleep contributed to more daytime tiredness which invokes lower academic achievement and retention of material being given compared to others who experience longer sleep duration averages. The factors affecting sleep and the impact it has can play an important role in academic performance. Sleep 101 Sleep can be divided into two main types of stages, rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep.

In a night’s sleep there are approximately 4–5 non-REM/REM cycles during a (Atkinson et al., 2007; Green et al., 2012), sleep occupies approximately a third of our lives and it is becoming apparent that sleep is necessary for normal brain functioning and for overall health and well-being (Green et al., 2012, p.18). According to Green, Westcombe, Varma (2012), “sleep can be defined as a natural, periodic state of immobility where the individual is relatively unaware of the environment and unresponsive to external sensory stimuli.” (p.16). Voluntary muscles become inactive and the metabolic rate is reduced, essentially sleep is a time where your body shuts itself down other than your brain and some respiratory systems (Green et al., 2012). “For centuries it was wrongly assumed that consciousness ceased at sleep onset and resumed with waking. The actual amount of sleep required is genetically determined and therefore varies between people.” (Green et al., 2012, p. 21).

The amount an individual needs to sleep is dependent on predetermined biological functions that require a certain amount of sleep and at certain times (Green et al., p.19). Feeling refreshed is a simple way to assess whether you achieved enough sleep or not. It is generally considered that the ‘optimal’ amount of sleep for human adults is between 7 and 8 hours per night in one bout because this allows the body/individual be able to benefit the effects of quality night of sleep which may include alertness, improved mood, sound memory and good health (National Sleep Foundation 2002; Green et al., 2012). A study by Hublin et al., (2001) determined that those who experience 6 hours or less per night are also more likely to be dissatisfied with their quality of life and may have adverse effects compared to others who achieved 7 hours or more sleep (Hublin et al. 2001; National Sleep Foundation 2002; Green et al., 2012). According to Green, Westcombe, Varma (2012): “Table 1: Average sleep requirements throughout the life-span Newborn Up to 18 hours 1–12 months 14–18 hours 1–3 years 12–15 hours 3–5 years 10–13 hours 5–12 years 9–11 hours Adolescents 9–11 hours Adults 6–8 hours Elderly 6–8 hours” (p. 25) The brain controls two of the biological processes that are essential to determining the sleep/wake cycle, the circadian process and the homeostatic process are separate but together and have become the two-process model of sleep (Borbély 1982; Green et al., 2012).

These processes are further explained by Green et al., (2012): “Maintaining a regular daily schedule strengthens the circadian drive and reinforces the homeostatic drive, making sleep easier to achieve at the chosen bedtime. Disruption of the circadian rhythm by keeping a chaotic sleep schedule, by doing night shift work or by regularly switching time zones can make sleeping difficult. This is clearly demonstrated by the effects of jet lag. Similarly, the process of being aroused, anxious or alert may overcome either of the sleep-promoting processes, and is one of the main mechanisms involved in the complaint of insomnia, particularly where the insomnia is long-standing and complicated by behaviours which weaken these processes such as irregular hours of sleep.” (p. 27) The amount of sleep we receive may have an indirect/direct impact on our health and wellness which can affect our academic performance and other physiological functions such as homeostasis. Sleep and Academics A study conducted by Gaultney (2010), at a large state university in the southeastern United States involving 1,845 participants 27% were at risk for at least one sleep disorder.

The most commonly reported disorders were narcolepsy and insomnia. When students were given a scale 1 (do not get nearly enough sleep) to 10 (get an ideal amount of sleep) the students averaged a score of 6.50. 19% reported that they worried about whether or not they got enough sleep and 13% reported they slept badly. Those who reported no sleep disorder had a higher grade point average than did those who reported at least one sleep disorder. GPA was significant, but weakly correlated with the amount of sleep prior to school/work. Individuals who showed more consistent sleep schedules received higher grades (Gaultney 2010). The impact sleep has on academic achievement and daytime tiredness is undeniable. The issue being, depending on the environment the students grow up in is not always ideal for academic achievement. Additionally, Perkinson-Gloor (2013), conducted a study that aimed to examine the role of daytime tiredness and the relationship in concerns to sleep duration with well-being and academic achievement. Of the 3,323 students attending secondary schools who completed a questionnaire assessed sleep habits, daytime tiredness, and they found that both male and female students sleeping less than 8 hours had lower grades than the participants who are sleeping more. No significant data was found in students sleeping more than 9 hours compared to those in the recommended category of 7-9 hours.

The prevalence of sleep in the case of grade point average according to literature is very strong and is something that can improve academic improvement. The National Sleep Foundation found that “…high school students who reported insufficient sleep or daytime sleepiness also reported depressed mood and lower grades, whereas 80% of students who reported getting enough sleep made As and Bs in school” (National Sleep Foundation). Gaultney (2010), reported that college students with full academic loads reported poorer sleep quality and were found to perform worse on academic tests (Howell et al., 2004; Gaultney, 2010). Fifty college students, deprived of sleep for 1 night, were then asked to solve math addition problems. Participants selected the difficulty level of the problems, participants who choose easier problems to solve were previously exposed to a lack of sleep. Inferring from the data, it was said that students who are chronically sleepy may hinder their future by choosing easier courses while in college (Engle-Friedman et al. 2003; Gaultney, 2010). Insufficient sleep has been shown to lead to unchallenging or easier work than it accomplishable by an individual.

Poor sleep quality can be detrimental to immediate consequences as well as future endeavors, in short sleep in very important to life as a whole. The connection between sleep and academic performance is invaluable to society’s effectiveness, it has been found to be very important later in adolescent years and school performance and sleep has been thought to be a reflection to education and work production (De Ridder et al., 2012; Hysing et al., 2016). Tardiness and absence from school have been some of the leading issues into lack of attention and focus in school and according to Hysing et al., (2016), sleep can impact negative academic performance when it causes students’ to arrive to school late and a lack of sleep can make individuals more susceptible to becoming sick which leads to missing school (Hysing et al., 2016). According to Hysing et al., (2016), “…adolescents sleeping between 7 and 9 h had the highest GPA (4.0) compared with both longer sleep duration (≥9 h: GPA = 3.9) and especially short sleep durationю

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