If you're thinking of applying to graduate school, you may believe that pulling a few extra all-nighters to make sure you polish your papers and ace your tests is a worthwhile sacrifice in the name of admission to the school of your dreams. However, recent data has shown that trading in your pillow and blanket for a textbook and laptop too much not only won't help, but can actually be counterproductive to your goal of boosting your chances. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that cutting out sleep can be harmful to your academic prospects.
Why sleep matters
Of all the potential pitfalls to academic performance that await students every year, none have quite as harmful an impact as sleep loss. A study conducted by Minnesota's University of St. Thomas found that, all else being equal, loss of sleep could negatively affect grade point average in similar ways as binge drinking and marijuana use. In fact, poor sleep even had a leg up on substance abuse, as researchers found that sleep deprivation could actually be linked to instances of students dropping classes - an effect not even drugs or alcohol could lay claim to.
"Sleep problems are not systematically addressed in the same way that substance abuse problems are. For colleges and universities, addressing sleep problems early in a student's academic career can have a major economic benefit through increased retention,"
-Dr. Roxanne Prichard, a University of St. Thomas psychology professor, in a press release.
Promoting better sleep
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 percent of adults and an even higher percentage of teenagers don't get enough sleep. These figures are striking enough for the CDC to classify poor sleep as a public health epidemic.
So how can prospective students take steps to make sure they're grabbing enough z's to encourage academic success? The CDC indicated that proper rest is a factor of both amount of sleep and the quality of sleep. Pre-existing stress, chronic medical conditions and a variety of other factors can butt into a good night's rest, meaning that even if you're giving yourself eight hours, you may not be getting the best sleep possible. Issues such as anxiety and depression can severely affect sleep, and should be addressed. Likewise, apnea or chronic pain should also be managed independently to ensure that they aren't preventing you from getting the rest you need.