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Division of Sleep Medicine partners with Harvard University Health Service to study sleep and academic performance

April 17, 2007

The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have partnered with Harvard University Health Service to implement the first comprehensive evaluation of the efficacy of an intervention involving increased sleep duration to improve academic performance, health and well-being in undergraduate students. As the initial step in this landmark endeavor, the sleep habits of a sample of first year undergraduate students will be evaluated. This preliminary study is vitally important in order to design an effective intervention for the next phase of the research program. The aim of the current study is, therefore, to objectively evaluate the sleep-wake patterns of a sample of 80 Harvard undergraduate students (freshmen).

Increasing evidence indicates that sleep loss and sleep disturbances are associated with reduced learning capacity and poorer academic performance in students. These findings support the well-documented neurobehavioral impairments associated with sleep loss observed under controlled laboratory conditions, and the growing evidence that sleep serves an important role in consolidating memory.  A recent extensive review of the literature on sleep and academic performance concluded that: (i) students ranging from school to university level are chronically sleep deprived, have poor sleep quality and increased daytime sleepiness; (ii) sleep loss and reduced sleep quality are related to poorer academic performance and learning; and (iii) intervention studies that involve restriction of sleep found worsening in neurocognitive and academic performance.

The current study of sleep habits in a sample of undergraduate students is supported by a gift from Tempur-Pedic North America, Inc.

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