Sleep, academic success linked

DEKALB, Ill. -- Brendan Denil gets little to no sleep at stressful times during the semester.

Denil, a graduate student-at-large, said the average amount of sleep he gets varies between three and nine hours per night.

"During an exam week, I usually don't sleep or I get [up to] three hours," he said. "I definitely feel better if I get eight or nine hours of sleep, but with school, I can't. There's just too much to do."

Freshman sociology major Stephanie Zickert said she usually gets about six hours of sleep a night and about the same amount of sleep during finals week.

"Pulling an all-nighter helps if you're trying to get something done, like a paper, but not if you're studying for an exam," Zickert said.

Zickert said she feels she gets enough sleep most of the time.

Steve Lux, a health educator for Health Enhancement, said the average person gets six to nine hours of sleep every night. "Although people say the normal hours of sleep you need is eight, there's really a range [depending on the person]," Lux said.

In the spring of 2005, the National College Health Assessment surveyed more than 54,000 college students on the primary factors affecting academic performance. Sleep deprivation rated as the third greatest impediment, Lux said. According to NIU statistics, students in 2002 also rated sleep deprivation as a major factor affecting academic performance, with the cold and flu rating higher that, Lux said.

It is also normal for some people to intentionally deprive themselves of sleep due to careers or schoolwork, Lux said.

"Those kinds of short-term sleep deprivations really [shouldn't] cause too many problems," he said.

Pulling an all-nighter may cause irritability and in some cases, insomnia, Lux said.

In cases of insomnia it's best not to toss and turn for half an hour but to instead find something relaxing to do, he said.

This may include watching television, reading, writing, yoga or meditation.

Going without sleep for a long period of time negatively affects your immune system, Lux said.

"During sleep, the body repairs any kind of damage," he said. "Muscles that have been overworked repair, dead or aging cells get replaced, the brain is able to organize an archive of memories better and our energy levels are recharged."