UCLA offers back-to-school study tips

UCLA offers back-to-school study tips – Los Angeles health | Examiner.com.
An excellent article by Dr Robin Wulffson.

Another summer is drawing to a close and Los Angeles students will soon be returning to school. Researchers at UCLA conducted a study to determine how students can boost their grades in a manner compatible with a healthy lifestyle. They caution that postponing studying for a big exam until the last minute and then embarking on a caffeine-fueled cram session is not the way to go. They published their findings online on August 20 in the journal Child Development

The researchers note that the problem with all night cram sessions before an exam is the trade-off between study and sleep. Obviously, studying is a key contributor to academic achievement; however, what students may fail to appreciate is that adequate sleep is also important for academics. Senior author Andrew J. Fuligni, a UCLA professor of psychiatry, and colleagues note that sacrificing sleep for extra study time, whether it is cramming for a test or plowing through a pile of homework, is actually counterproductive. They caution that regardless of how much a student generally studies each day, if that student sacrifices sleep time in order to study more than usual, he or she is likely to have more academic problems, not less, on the following day.

Dr. Fuligni explains, “No one is suggesting that students shouldn’t study, but adequate amount of sleep is also critical for academic success. These results are consistent with emerging research suggesting that sleep deprivation impedes leaning.” He notes that students generally learn best when they keep a consistent study schedule. Although a steady pace of learning is ideal, the increasing demands that high school students face may make such a consistent schedule difficult. Socializing with peers and work, for example, both increase across the course of high school. So do academic obligations like homework that requires more time and effort. As a result, many high school students end up with irregular study schedules, often facing nights in which they need to spend substantially more time than usual studying or completing school work.

Dr. Fuligni notes, “The biologically-needed hours of sleep remain constant through their high school years, even as the average amount of sleep students get declines.” He explains that previous research has shown that in 9th grade, the average adolescent sleeps for 7.6 hours per night; then declines to 7.3 hours in 10th grade, 7.0 hours in 11th grade, and 6.9 hours in 12th grade. “So kids start high school getting less sleep then they need, and this lack of sleep gets worse over the course of high school.”

The study group was comprised of 535 Latino, Asian-American, and European-American students in each of the 9th, 10th, and 12th grades who were recruited from three Los Angeles area high schools. They were asked to record in a diary for a 14-day period how long they studied, how long they slept, and whether or not they experienced two academic problems: not understanding something taught the following day in class, or if they did poorly on a test, quiz, or homework. In all instances, the investigators found that study time became increasingly associated with more academic problems because longer study hours were increasingly associated with fewer hours of sleep. In turn, that predicted greater academic problems the following day.

First author Cari Gillen-O’Neel, a graduate student working with Fuligni, notes, “At first it was somewhat surprising to find that in the latter years of high school, cramming tended to be followed by days with more academic problems, but then it made sense once we examined extra studying in the context of sleep. Although we expected that cramming might not be as effective as students think, our results showed that extra time spent studying cut into sleep. And it’s this reduced sleep that accounts for the increase in academic problems that occurs after days of increased studying.” Dr. Fuligni added, that, as expected, students who averaged more study time overall were the students who tended to receive higher grades in school. But, “Academic success may depend on finding strategies to avoid having to give up sleep to study, such as maintaining a consistent study schedule across days, using school time as efficiently as possible, and sacrificing time spent on other, less essential activities.”

Take home message:
In my opinion, this study is very relevant to college students. College is significantly more academically challenging than high school. The courses are more difficult and the competition is keener. Many students who did well in high school not uncommonly get a comeuppance when they receive a poor grade on a midterm or final. Some improve their study habits and persevere; however, some flunk out. Students at any educational should heed the advice given in this study. In so doing, they will maximize their chances of academic success—and lead a more health lifestyle. Here’s another trip that I found effective as a student: after hitting the sack after an evening of study, review important material (i.e., flash cards or notes). This last minute input of information is often absorbed very well.

 

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