Good quality sleep has an even greater influence on academic success than what was previously thought, according to a new study. Both getting enough sleep and getting deep, restful sleep led to good grades.
The idea that good sleep promotes learning is not new. However, a new research study has found that it makes an enormous difference in academic success. The researchers also uncovered two surprising caveats in their results: consistency of sleep and an early bedtime both played a major role in how sleep affected grades.
When two MIT professors gave out Fitbit's in exchange for the data and details about academic performance, they discovered that sleep is one of the most important factors in academic success. What time students go to bed and the consistency of their sleep habits also make a big difference.
Interestingly, the professors did not set out to study sleep at all. They intended to investigate the correlation between exercise and grades. Half of the students that they gave Fitbit's to also enrolled in an exercise class. That study proved fruitless--there was no improvement at all. The researchers figured that they had not given enough time to see any results, but then they noticed something else.
Fitbit tracks sleep as well as exercise. A very clear line matching sleep with academic performance began to appear. As the students got more sleep, their grades rose steadily.
This wasn't all that surprising, but a couple of other details were. First, the time that students went to bed mattered. Those who went to bed at 2 AM or later had poorer grades than those who went to bed earlier, even if they slept the same number of hours in total.
Next, consistency in sleep habits made a difference. Grades were better for students who got the same amount of sleep each night, even if their totals over a period of time were lower.
The researchers cannot be sure if good sleep habits directly cause good grades. It could be that struggling students were more stressed, and that impacted sleep. External factors like ADHD could also be at play.