April 4, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Everyone knows that lack of sleep can make you drowsy and slow your responses but new research shows that pulling an all-nighter on exam week can do more than just make you sleepy during your exams. Not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your memory and increase your stress levels, both of which can be counterproductive.
Spending sleepless nights cramming for your exams can actually defeat the purpose. Since your memory can be affected by lack of sleep, chances are you probably would not be able to remember much of what you stayed up late to study about. Feeling stressed during your exam week will also be detrimental to your end-goal, which is to get good grades for all your hard work through the year.
Forces the brain to work harder – When you do not get enough sleep, your brain is forced to work harder and accomplishes less. This has a scientific basis. Imaging results show that a person’s brain works sluggishly when they haven’t slept in 35 hours while the language centre completely shuts down. This makes it harder for people, especially students, to convey accurate messages or to perform intellectually. High level tasks during exams may become harder to achieve efficiently.
Memory Problems – People who do not get sufficient sleep tend to forget little everyday things such as where they placed keys and students who are sleep deprived have trouble remembering anything they had studied just 12 hours before. This proves that cramming just before an exam is essentially useless if you have not gotten your full sleep requirement. Learning new things and absorbing lessons also become harder. Most people who lack shut eye will have problems paying attention in class, hampering any new information from being stored in their brains.
Slows Response – Anyone who does not get enough rest will tend to react slowly. During exams, this may impede your ability to complete a test on time, resulting in lower scores due to incomplete tests. This will greatly affect students who are pressured to complete tests under time constraints. For medical students, this is compounded with the need to make quick decisions under pressure such as during practical exams, which will involve having to make split second decisions on a patient’s medical condition.
Long Term Effects on the Brain – Some studies on sleep deprivation and brain cells have revealed that constant lack of sleep can lead to damaged brain neurons. Studies have shown that when mice are forced to stay awake longer than their usual routine, there was a loss of brain neurons. While this loss of neurons may not immediately cause brain damage, it would eventually lead to some brain impairment.
There’s no doubt that getting enough sleep is important for optimum day-to-day functioning. For students, getting enough shut eye before a major exam can make a huge difference in how well you do. Staying up all night cramming for a test will not lead to better scores but may actually lead to lower grades. On the other hand, studying and absorbing lessons on a regular school day while getting sufficient rest will produce better test results in the end.