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How Does Sleep Affect Your Test Scores?

Every student is stretched between academic studies, sports, extra curricular commitments, social activities and sleep. It can be hard to prioritize time, and sleep is often one of the first things that is neglected when a student develops a busy schedule. When a student wants to perform well on an ACT or SAT it is important to know if sleep is a significant factor when it comes to test scores.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. There are so many factors that affect a student’s performance that it is difficult to distinguish the exact role that sleep plays. However, there are studies that have attempted to discover just how sleep can affect test scores.

Survey Data

One study cited by BetterEvidence.org used data from a survey, Child Development Supplement (CDS) of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), conducted by the University of Michigan. This study examined survey data that was taken from children in their typical home environments rather than data from tests performed in a lab. The study found that 16-year-old students performed best on math and reading tests when they got around 7 hours of sleep per night. However, they also found performance didn’t not significantly drop unless a student got less than 6 hours of sleep a night or more than 11 hours a night.

This study displayed that students perform well over a range of amount of sleep. Some students may require a bit more sleep than others, but generally between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night will result in the best test scores. The researches speculated test scores dropped as sleep hours increased over 11 hours because students were forfeiting time studying for time sleeping.

University Study

Another recent study cited by Huffington Post and published in a discussion paper for The Institute for the Study of Labor in Germany, also found that at least seven hours of sleep a night led to the highest test scores. This study surveyed university students during an exam period. It found that the students that averaged around 7 hours of sleep a night received almost 10% higher grades than students that slept less than 7 hours a night. This study confirms that consistently sleeping a healthy amount can improve your overall performance.

Lab Study

Yet another study cited by ABC.com found that participants who got more sleep were more likely to solve a complex math problem that required insight to discover a “hidden rule”than those who got not sleep. This study was performed after only one night, rather than an extended period. The group of people who slept 8 hours during the night was three times more likely to solve the problem than those who stayed up all night.

Sleep can help you retain and recall information that you have learned during the day. It can also help you stay focused and improve problem-solving skills. These are important skills when it comes to test taking, so it seems logical that sleep would impact test scores.

Prioritize Your Time

To get the best score you should prioritize your time so that you can regularly get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Every student is different so you may find you need a bit more to feel well rested. Don’t stay up all night to cram the night before the test. This will significantly diminish your ability to focus, think creatively and solve problems. It may also increase stress and anxiety on the day of the test. Getting a good night of sleep before the test is ideal, but your scores may still suffer if you have not slept enough in the nights leading up to the test.

Ultimately there are many factors that affect a test score. Sleep alone will probably not make or break a student’s SAT or ACT score. However, a healthy amount of sleep combined with an appropriate amount of study and preparation may help students perform better on their exam.


Los Altos SAT Test Preparation

Mr. Test Prep strives to prepare students with his Los Altos SAT Test Preparation program. When students engage in his Los Altos SAT Test Preparation program their scores reflect the hard work and dedication put forth. Call Mr. Test Prep today and be prepared!

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