Effect of Sleep on Academic Performance


Several studies have reported that a lack of sleep will negatively affect GPA.[FW1] Many others indicated that lack of sleep would also impair cognitive functions in all aspects[FW2]. This study is designed to determine if a sleep will have an impact on academic performance as well as look for a difference between male and female performance. To test this, 100 undergraduate students ages 18-24 will be randomly assigned to one of two condition. One group will be sleep deprived while the other will not, then both groups will take an exam with select math and literature questions taken from the SAT. It is expected that the participants not sleep deprived will score significantly lower than those in the standard sleep group. It is also expected that there will be no significant difference of male and female scores in either the sleep deprived or standard sleep conditions. This will demonstrate that sleep does affect academic performance in both males and females.

Best services for writing your paper according to Trustpilot

Premium Partner
From $18.00 per page
4,8 / 5
Writers Experience
Recommended Service
From $13.90 per page
4,6 / 5
Writers Experience
From $20.00 per page
4,5 / 5
Writers Experience
* All Partners were chosen among 50+ writing services by our Customer Satisfaction Team

Keywords: Sleep, Academics, Undergraduate, Students, Deprivation

Effect of Sleep on Academic Performance in Undergraduate Students

Humans rely on sleep to help function during the day or during the night.[FW4]The ability for one to learn can be drastically effected by whether or not he/she gets enough sleep the night before. According to one study, it has been found that lack of sleep has negative affect on both memory recall and memory formation (Longordo, Kopp, & Luthi, 2009). This is a problem many college students face. When the students need to complete assignments or study for an exam they will often stay up all night and not sleep, hoping to get the paper complete or memorize the information so their grade will reflect how well they understand the material being taught. The problem here is that a lack of sleep makes academic success more difficult to achieve. There is a negative feedback loop demonstrating this predicament; the student stays awake studying or working, then does not receive the desired grade because memory recall is far more difficult, now the thought process is that more studying is required for the next exam or assignment, so the student stays up later.

This sleep deprivation does not only come from the need to study or complete assignments. Because college is expensive many students get jobs to help pay the tuition (Chiang, Arendt, Zheng, & Hanisch, 2014). Because the employed students are not the only ones needing help staying awake while doing assignments or during a lecture, they find alternative methods. As a way to help undergraduates stay awake, they consume energy drinks[FW5]. Energy drinks and their connection to sleep continue to negatively affect student performance. A study conducted by Champlin, Pasch and Perry found that there is a significant correlation between lower grade point average (GPA) and the consumption of energy drinks (2016). Because there are several ways sleep impacts student performance, this researcher intends to continue this area study. The researcher aims to demonstrate that there is a correlation between the amount of sleep a student gets and his/her ability to complete an exam. The hope is that there will be a significant difference in scores between the two groups, indicating that the amount of sleep an undergraduate student gets the night before an exam will contribute to their score. This is important because it may help students understand that staying up is not the solution to success; therefore, they will may look for healthier and more beneficial study techniques to help them increase their academic performance. The researcher will also look at the difference in scores between sexes in each conditions. It is desired that there will be little difference between these scores, which will show that both male and female students have similar levels of understanding and that sleep has an effect on both sexes.

The discovery that lack of sleep can be dangerous led to an article that stated that sleep is a biological necessity (Gilbert & Weaver, 2010). It has been found that much like how the absence of eating leads to health concerns and eventual death, the absence of sleep will eventually have these same side effects. The research conducted by Gilbert and Weaver (2010) found that there is a significant negative correlation between poor sleep quality and GPA. This adds to the validity of a study done in 2008 [FW6]which indicated that students with GPA’s over 3.0 reported that they were less likely to engage in “all-nighters” while students with GPA’s of 2.5 report occasionally performing this action, and students with 2.0 and lower said that they conduct “all-nighters” frequently (Thacher[FW7]). This indicates a need for sleep if a student strives to be successful in their college career. In 1997[FW8], two researchers reported that students being sleep deprived were fatigued and had an increase in confusion, which caused those in the sleep-deprived group to struggle in their performance (Pilcher & Walters). This may indicate that sleep deprivation[FW9] (SD) does not directly affect student performance instead; it creates the conditions that will impair student success. Another study also demonstrates that SD is not directly affecting the students. Engle-Friedman, Riela, Golan, Ventuneac, Davis, Jefferson, & Major (2002) conducted an experiment with results that showed SD students, when given a choice, are significantly more likely to choose questions that are of less difficulty than students who had a normal amount of sleep. They also learned that even though the SD group selected easier questions they still scored less than the other group who chose more difficult questions. It was determined that being sleep deprived causes students to put forth less effort than people not sleep deprived. Even though lack of sleep makes it difficult to focus and makes students want to take the easiest path to the finish, there are also emotional and physiological effects.

Brown, Buboltz, and Soper reported that when people are sleep deprived they suffer an emotional imbalance. This imbalance causes the student to have a low sense of life satisfaction. Accompaning this is for depression and anger (2006). The research conducted by Brown et a. 2006 supports that done by Pilcher and Walters (1997) in that both found that the lack of sleep caused fatigue and confusion. Another more serious physiological effect that arises when the body does not rest enough is that it lessens the production of T cells. This is dangerous because T cells work with the immune system, when the immune system becomes weaker the body is more suseptable to infections and diseases (Longordo, Kopp, & Luthi, 2009). This can be a problem for students because if they are too sick to attend class they will fall behind leading to another reason lack of sleep harms GPA, because one cannot learn the information if they are not present. Sleep disorders have a major affect on the academic performance of students because they cause sleep deprivation. A study done with 1,845 participants showed that 27% of the students with a GPA less than or equal to 2.0 were at high risk of having a sleep disorder (Gaultney, 2010). Because sleep deprivation has had such a major impact on the GPA in college students, researchers set out to discover what range of sleep is effecting the students. They found a significant difference in GPA between students that had a maximum of 6 hours of sleep compared to the students that Routinely had 9 or more hours of sleep; however, they did not find a statistically significant difference between students that received 7-8 hours and those that had less than 6 nor was the difference significantly different between the students geeting 9 or more hours and those getting 7-8 hours of sleep (Kelly, Kelly, & Clanton, 2001). Getting enough sleep is not enough to earn a good GPA, the student must also apply themsenves and be dedicated to the courses they are taking. Because of this the researcher will try to determine just how much sleep effects a students GPA or are they just not applying themselves to be successful. To solve this the following method will be used.



There will be 100 undergraduate [FW10]students between the ages of 18-24 recruited from Central Washington University (CWU). This range is being selected because it is the most common undergraduate age. All ages are being selected because the researcher wants to view the effect on all undergraduates not just freshman, sophomore etc.


There will be a questionnaire with questions such as “did you wake up after falling asleep?” (see appendix E for all questions) for the participants in the standard sleep time group. There will be a test which will have 20 questions taken from the SAT, 10 questions will be mathematics such as “Which of the following is equal to sin(Iˆ/5)? (see appendix C for questions and appendix D for solutions)” calculators will be provided to all participants. There will also be five literature questions formulate the test. Participants will be shown an informed consent prior to beginning the study (see Appendix A) and a debriefing form after completing the study (see Appendix B).


Using an experimental design, participants will be randomly assigned into one of the two conditions. These conditions will consist of either a deprived sleep group or a standard sleep time group. The administered test contains questions from the SAT because it is a standardized test, which all CWU applicants must have taken, giving them some level of familiarity with it. Participants in the deprived sleep group will be kept awake throughout the night and morning until they have completed the test. To ensure the participants remain awake, they will stay in a laboratory where the room will be lowered to the temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which will be warm enough to avoid any form of injury, damage, or illness yet help prevent the participants from sleeping. Music will play over a loudspeaker for 20 minutes every hour and there will an option of coffee until 2 hours before the test. The participants in the standard sleep time group will be allowed to sleep at their own residence and will return to take the test, when they return they will fill out a questionnaire. Both groups will proceed to take the same test at 12pm. The beginning of the test will have a demographic to determine if sex have an effect on the data. The data will be analyzed based on the number of correct test questions in each group. An ANOVA with alpha = .05 will be performed to determine if there is a significant difference between the deprived sleep and standard sleep time groups, as well as to see if there is a significant difference between male and female performance in each group.


To begin the research all participants will be randomly assigned into one of the two conditions then they will be shown a consent form to read and agree to, if a participant does not agree they will be thanked for their time and asked to leave. The participants that agree to the informed consent form will be randomly assigned into 14 groups. Each group will be designated a day of the week within the next 14 days to take their test. There will be three participants from both groups to take the test each day; this is because of limited space in the lab. Those in the deprived sleep group will be asked to return to the lab by 9pm to be kept awake and the standard sleep group will be asked to sleep for at least 8 hours. Before the test begins, the standard sleep group will be given a questionnaire to fill out as a way to determine if they received the necessary amount of sleep, if they do not meet the required 8 hours they will be given a debriefing form and dismissed as to not contaminate the data. Both groups will be required to be in the lab at 12pm to take the test. Before starting the test, each participant will be given a TI-83 calculator to assist in the math portion of the test. When a participant completes the test, he/she will return the calculator and then be given a debriefing form explaining the purpose of the study, if he/she is in the deprived sleep group they will be encouraged to go home and sleep.


The data will be analyzed using an ANOVA. The researcher does not expect a significant difference between sexes in either group, this will show that sleep effects both male and female. The researcher does expect that the individuals will have significantly different scores based on the condition they were assigned to. Specifically, the participants in the deprived sleep group will score lower on both the math and literature than the participants in the standard sleep time condition. This will indicate that sleep does significantly affect the academic performance in undergraduate students.


This study will set out to discover if and/or how sleep effects undergraduate academics and if these effects vary between sexes. The results should support previous research, which has indicated that the amount of sleep students get over the course of a quarter does have an effect on their GPA. It should be reported that students deprived of sleep have a lower score and that there is little to no difference in the scores between sexes. However, several limitations that may arise could have an effect on the results. Because the students are free to opt out of the study at any point, attrition will likely be evident. This would likely occur in the sleep-deprived condition because they may start out enthusiastic but become unwilling to sacrifice sleep to continue participation. Another limitation in the sleep-deprived condition would be from the students that physically could not stay awake which would disqualify them from the study. The test being administered to the students may also have an effect on the collected data. This is because some students may be more proficient in math and literature due to the classes they have already taken. In addition, the questions are being taken from the SAT to give the students a familiarity but many of them would not have taken the exam for many years. The students in the standard sleep time condition may lie on the questionnaire as to not be disqualified from the study. There are some possible ways to solve for these limitations. Having the standard sleep time condition, sleep in a lab where they can be monitored would eliminate the possibility of not knowing if they truly obtained the necessary sleep. Not using such a wide age range could reduce the risk of unfamiliarity with SAT questions as well as narrowing the proficiency gap. Future research could add a time limit, which would help to simulate a real class exam. They may also compare male and female scores between conditions to determine if sleep has an effect on both or just one sex. A practical application to this researcher’s findings would be knowing whether sleep does or does not have an effect on academic performance, which could be used to inform the students on the effects of sleep. This would benefit people because they would know that having enough sleep will help them do better in school which plays a major role in one’s future. Understanding this could lead to an increase in average student GPA and in turn the graduation rates. The knowledge of the difference in scores between sexes could also be used to determine if one sex has the potential for the need of more assistance to learn the material being presented.


Brown, F. C., Buboltz, W. C., & Soper, B. (2006). Development and evaluation of the sleep treatment and education program for students (STEPS). Journal of American College Health, 54, 231-237. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezp.lib.cwu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=c01bec01-699f-4217-997e-ada931c678d4%40sessionmgr4006&vid=11&hid=4105

Champlin, S. E., Pasch, K. E., & Perry, C. L. (2016). Is the consumption of energy drinks associated with academic achievement among college students? The Journal of Primary Prevention, 37, 345-359. doi:10.1007/s10935-016-0437-4

Chiang, Y.-C., Arendt, S. W., Zheng, T., & Hanisch, K. A. (2014). The effects of sleep on academic performance and job performance. College Student Journal, 48, 72-87. doi:10.1037/t05178-000

Engle-Friedman, M., Riela, S., Golan, R., Ventuneac, A. M., Davis, C. M., Jefferson, A. D., & Major, D. (2003). The effect of sleep loss on next day effort. Journal of Sleep Research, 12, 113-124. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezp.lib.cwu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=c01bec01-699f-4217-997e-ada931c678d4%40sessionmgr4006&vid=17&hid=4105

Gaultney, J. F. (2010). The prevalence of sleep disorders in college students: Impact on academic performance. Journal of American College Health, 59, 91-97. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezp.lib.cwu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=c01bec01-699f-4217-997e-ada931c678d4%40sessionmgr4006&vid=20&hid=4105

Gilbert, S. P., & Weaver, C. C. (2010). Sleep quality and academic performance in university students: A wake-up call for college psychologists. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 24, 295-306. doi:10.1080/87568225.2010.509245

Kelly, W. E., Kelly, K. E., & Clanton, R. C. (2001). The relationship between sleep length and grade-point average among college students. College Student Journal, 35, 84-86. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezp.lib.cwu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=c01bec01-699f-4217-997e-ada931c678d4%40sessionmgr4006&vid=26&hid=4105

Longordo, F., Kopp, C., & Luthi, A. (2009). Consequences of sleep deprivation on neurotransmitter receptor expression and function. European Journal of Neuroscience, 29, 1810-1819. doi:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06719.x

Pilcher, J. J., & Walters, A. S. (1997). How sleep deprivation affects psychological variables related to college students’ cognitive performance. Journal of American College Health, 46, 121-126. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezp.lib.cwu.edu/ehost/detail/detail?sid=c01bec01-699f-4217-997e-ada931c678d4%40sessionmgr4006&vid=29&hid=4105&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=1997-42387-003&db=psyh

Thacher, P. V. (2008). University students and ‘the all-nighter’: Correlates and patterns of students’ engagement in a single night of total sleep deprivation. Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 6, 16-31. doi:10.1080/15402000701796114

Appendix A

Study Title: Sleep and Academics

Principal Investigator(s): Eric Flowers

Contact: [email protected]

What you should know about this study:
You are being asked to join a research study.
This consent form explains the research study and your part in the study.
Please read it carefully and take as much time as you need.
Ask questions about anything you do not understand now, or when you think of them later.
You are a volunteer. If you do join the study and change your mind later, you may quit at any time without fear of penalty or loss of benefits.
Why is this research being done?

This research is being done to discover if sleep changes performance.

Who can take part in this study?

The basic eligibility criterion for one to participate is that they must be an enrolled undergraduate student between the ages 18 and 24. Must be able to read and write English. The expected number of participants is to be around 100.

What will happen if you join this study?

If you agree to be in this study, we will ask you to do the following things:

Once the study has been selected, you will be shown an informed consent. Once read and accepted, the participant will be asked return to the lab by 9pm to be kept awake until completion of the test starting at 12pm the next day or will be instructed to sleep for between 8 and 9 hours at their own residence and return by 11:30am to fill out a questionnaire before taking the test.

The total time it will take to complete this study is between 15.5 and 16.5 hours.

What are the risks or discomforts of the study?

The risks and discomforts in this study are exhaustion, extreme tiredness and fatigue if in the deprived sleep group. The discomfort for the standard sleep time group may be from sitting down during the questionnaire and test.

Are there benefits to being in the study?

There is not benefit to you from being in this study.

If you take part in this study, you will help further research in the link between sleep and academics.

What are your options if you do not want to be in the study?

For all participants:You do not have to join this study. If you do not join, it will not affect any benefits to which you are entitled.

Can you leave the study early?

You can agree to be in the study now and change your mind later. If you wish to stop at any time, please tell us immediately.

What information about you will be kept private and what information may be given out?

No defining characteristics will be asked of you. The only characteristics needed for this study are gender and age. This way, confidentiality can be assured.

Data collected may be used for future research.

What other things should you know about this research study?

a. What is the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and how does it protect you?

This study has been reviewed by the CWU Human Subject Review Council. HSRC is made up of faculty from many different departments, ethicists, nurses, scientists, non-scientists and people from the local community. The HSRC’s purpose is to review human research studies and to protect the rights and welfare of the people participating in those studies. You may contact the HSRC if you have questions about your rights as a participant or if you think you have not been treated fairly. The HSRC office number is (509) 963-3115.

b.What do you do if you have questions about the study?

Call the principal investigator, Eric Flowers, at (253) 797-6777.

If you think you are injured or ill as a result of being in this study, call the principal investigator, Eric Flowers at (253) 797-6777.

If you have an urgent problem related to your participation in this study, call the Student Medical and Counseling Clinic at 963-1881.

This study is not able to offer financial compensation nor to absorb the costs of medical treatment should you be injured as a result of participating in this research. However, the services at the Student Medical and Counseling Clinic will be open to you as they are to all students.

What does your signature on this consent form mean?

By signing this consent form, you are not giving up any legal rights. Your signature means that you understand the study plan, have been able to ask questions about the information given to you in this form, and you are willing to participate under the conditions we have described.

A copy of the form will be given to you.

Participant’s Name (print):

Participant’s Signature: Date:

Signature of Investigator(s): Eric Flowers Date:

Appendix B

This study is concerned with the effect of sleep on academic performance in undergraduate students.

How was this tested?

In this study, you were asked to participate after signing a consent form. You were asked to return complete a test to the best of your ability. One group was instructed to return to the lab to be kept awake from 9pm until the completed the test which started at 12pm the next day. The other group was instructed to sleep for 8-9hours and return to the lab by 11:00am the next day to fill out a questionnaire which was used to determine if the amount of sleep obtained met the requirements to continue with the study. Both groups then took the test at 12pm

Hypotheses and main questions:

We expect to find that those in the sleep deprived group will score lower than the participants in the standard sleep time group. We do not expect to find a significant difference between sex in either group.

Why is this important to study?

This is important to study in order to better understand differences in sleep, and the effect it has on academic performance. This research may help students realize that not sleeping does not benefit them and will hopefully lead them to find different ways to study.

Who do I contact for more information?

If you have concerns about your rights as a participant in this experiment, please contact Eric Flowers at (253) 797-6777 or [email protected]

Thank you again for your participation.

Appendix C

10 Math Questions and 5 Literature Questions Measured


The recommended daily calcium intake for a 20-year-old is 1,000 milligrams (mg). One cup of milk contains 299 mg of calcium and one cup of juice contains 261 mg of calcium. Which of the following inequalities represents the possible number of cups of milk m and cups of juice j a 20-year-old could drink in a day to meet or exceed the recommended daily calcium intake from these drinks alone?
299m + 261j a‰? 1,000
299m + 261j > 1,000
299/m + 261/j a‰? 1,000
299/m + 261/j > 1,000
A research assistant randomly selected 75 undergraduate students from the list of all students enrolled in the psychology-degree program at a large university. She asked each of the 75 students, “How many minutes per day do you typically spend reading?” The mean reading time in the sample was 89 minutes, and the margin of error for this estimate was 4.28 minutes. Another research assistant intends to replicate the survey and will attempt to get a smaller margin of error. Which of the following samples will most likely result in a smaller margin of error for the estimated mean time students in the psychology-degree program read per day?
40 randomly selected undergraduate psychology-degree program students.
40 randomly selected undergraduate students from all degree programs at the college.
300 randomly selected undergraduate psychology-degree program students.
300 randomly selected undergraduate students from all degree programs at the college.

3. The first metacarpal bone is located in the wrist. The scatterplot below shows the relationship between the length of the first metacarpal bone and height for 9 people. The line of best fit is also shown.

How many of the nine people have an actual height that differs by more than 3 centimeters from the height predicted by the line of best fit?


4. A survey was conducted among a randomly chosen sample of U.S. citizens about U.S. voter participation in the November 2012 presidential election. The table below displays a summary of the survey results.

Reported Voting by Age (in thousands)


Did Not Vote

No Response


18- to 34-year-olds





35- to 54-year-olds





55- to 74-year-olds





People 75 years old and over










Of the 18- to 34-year-olds who reported voting, 500 people were selected at random to do a follow-up survey

You Might Also Like

I'm Alejandro!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out