Scientists Link A Good Night's Sleep To Higher Test Scores

06/22/2014 10:31 am ET | Updated Jun 22, 2014
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Does a good night's sleep really boost your performance the following day? A new study not only suggests that it can but also shows how big a difference the extra zzz's make.

For the study, researchers from Ghent and KU Leuven universities in Belgium surveyed 621 first-year university students about their sleep habits during exam period. The researchers then compared the survey results with how the students did on their exams. What was the finding?

“All else equal, students who generally got a good night’s sleep performed better on exams,” study co-author Dr. Stijn Baert, a researcher at Ghent University, said in a written statement.

No surprise there.

But the grades of students who slept seven hours each night during the exam period were nearly 10 percent higher than those of students who got less sleep. Students who extended their sleep duration from six to seven hours saw an average increase of 1.7 points (on a scale of 20) for each exam. And, yes, the researchers accounted for differences in the students' study habits as well as their health and socioeconomic backgrounds.

But why might a good night's sleep translate into better academic performance? Because "new knowledge is integrated into our existing knowledge base while we sleep,” Dr. Baert said in the statement.

Of course, adequate sleep has other benefits. Previous studies showed that more sleep not only boosts thinking ability but also can improve athletic performance. Medical experts say adults should get seven to eight hours of sleep each day.

The study was published in a discussion paper for the Institute for the Study of Labor in Germany on June 14, 2014.

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