Much has been written about the importance of sleep as a way of enhancing performance and mood. We are all likely to know that academic performance and the ability to regulate mood is impacted by the amount of sleep individuals have. Through personal experience, everyone is probably aware that performance in any area is detrimentally impacted if the individual who is performing has not had adequate sleep the night before. None of us are able to concentrate or focus well; our memory is not fully functional; we are not at our best if we have not had sufficient restorative sleep.
Tim Bono, researcher and lecturer in Psychology and Neuroscience at Washington University in St Louis, has identified that consistency of sleep is also extremely important to achieving optimal performance. The regularity and consistency of sleep enables individuals to perform well. Research conducted at Washington University illustrates the significant difference in academic grades achieved by students who consistently experience optimal amounts of sleep as opposed to those who sleep erratically and who experience fluctuating sleep schedules.
In addition to the quality and duration of sleep experienced, the consistency of sleep has a significant impact. 'Catching up' on a sleep deficit incurred during the week by sleeping longer and later on the weekend is not sufficient. It is the consistency of sleep that is beneficial, it appears from this research. Students who stay up late to finish an assignment, intending to correct the sleep deficit later, risk negatively impacting academic results. Likewise, students who are engaged in electronic gaming late at night, who plan to rebalance their sleep schedule by sleeping in on the weekend, are limiting the benefits of sleep by being inconsistent with how much sleep they have each night.
In addition to achieving better academic results, those who had consistent sleep associated with natural circadian rhythms also experience greater happiness and well-being than those who had inconsistent amounts of sleep. Variability of sleep has been linked, through this study, with reduced levels of happiness and increased levels of anxiety.
There are several benefits associated with having consistent sleep, whereas, staying up late to 'cram' prior to an exam is counterproductive. The brain processes information while asleep and the hippocampal region responsible for memory function is active, encoding and storing memories while the brain sleeps, especially during the stage of sleep when rapid eye movement (REM) signals that this process is occurring.
Sleep matters but ensuring that enough sleep is acquired across a week or month is not sufficient. It is important to consider the quality and consistency of sleep if the benefits of sleep are to be achieved.
© Michele Juratowitch