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Sleep deprivation impacts the following areas:

No sleep > Stress > Insomnia > Less sleep > More stress

Sleep loss is cumulative

  • Sleeping in periodically doesn’t eliminate the deficit
  • You can’t “catch up” on lost sleep
  • Sleeping in actually disrupts your normal sleep/wake cycle

How much sleep do you need? Ideally, you should try to sleep for 6 to 9 hours a night. (Most people sleep at least 1 to 1 ½ hours less than needed.)

Best bet?

  • Try to sleep/wake at about the same time each day
  • Try to sleep about the same number of hours each day

Staying up extra hours does increase the quantity of hours available to study, but it reduces the quality.


  • Can have an adverse affect on learning
  • Disrupt the sleep/wake cycle
  • Often lead to procrastination

Naps add to the overall quantity of sleep, but not to the quality. You usually don’t reach the REM state or the deep/dream state during a nap.

Nap > Wake up groggy > Work is still waiting > Less time to do it

EXCEPTION TO THIS RULE: Power Naps Power naps are brief (20-minute) respites that can provide needed energy boosts throughout the day. Sit comfortably on your bed or in a chair—don’t lie down or you’re likely to drift into sleep mode. Close your eyes and relax for 20 minutes. If you need to actually “sleep” during the day, then you’re not getting enough sleep at night.

Bottom line?

  • Try to find a regular, consistent sleep/wake cycle that fits your schedule.
  • Avoid trying to “catch up” on sleep with random naps.
Adapted from Walter Pauk’s How to Study in College, 8th Edition. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.