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Poor Sleep May Lead to Worse Grades for College Students

Restless nights affect academic performance as much as binge drinking and smoking pot, study suggests

FRIDAY, June 6, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Instead of staying up studying all night, college students might want to try a new way to improve their grades: get a good night's sleep.

Researchers report that having trouble sleeping is as strong a predictor of falling grades as binge drinking or smoking marijuana. They noted that undergrads who don't sleep well are much more likely to have lower grades or withdraw from a class than other students who get enough sleep.

"Well-rested students perform better academically and are healthier physically and psychologically," study investigators Roxanne Prichard, an associate professor of psychology, and Monica Hartmann, a professor of economics, both at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., said in a news release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The investigators examined information collected on more than 43,000 college students in the Spring 2009 American College Health Association National College Health Assessment. Specifically, the researchers looked for factors that predicted academic problems among the students, such as lower GPA or falling grades.

Poor sleep had the same effect on students' GPA as binge drinking and marijuana use, the study revealed. This link was most obvious among freshmen. The study authors said poor sleep alone helped predict whether or not these first-year students would drop out of a class.

Trouble sleeping was linked to worse academic performance even after other possible contributing factors -- such as depression, work hours, learning disabilities or chronic health issues -- were considered. However, the association between poor sleep and poor grades does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

The authors pointed out that sufficient information on the importance of sleep is not available on most college campuses.

"Sleep problems are not systematically addressed in the same way that substance abuse problems are," Prichard said. "For colleges and universities, addressing sleep problems early in a student's academic career can have a major economic benefit through increased retention."

The study, which was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep, was presented Tuesday at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies annual meeting in Minneapolis.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about the effects of not getting enough sleep.

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, June 1, 2014
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