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Sleeping is a necessity for human survival and crucial to our health. Not getting enough sleep can result in hallucinations, irritability, depressive behaviour, diabetes, poor dieting, interference with daily activities, lack of alertness and motivation as well as poor academic performance among students. The majority of the population realizes the importance of a sufficient amount of sleep, yet based on the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) done in 2002, 18% of the population get an average of less than five hours of sleep each night.1 If teenagers are not getting the required 8.5 – 9 hours per night, they generally “make up” for it by taking long naps, or sleeping in on weekends. Both of which are counterproductive considering it throws off one’s natural body clock.2 Late sleepers tend to interrupt their sleep cycle when they are either in the 3rd or 4th stage of sleeping, which are both considered “deep” sleep or during the 5th phase, REM (Rapid Eye Movement), leaving them feeling groggy and tired. As a result, teenagers sleep instead of attending class, sleep during lessons, or aren’t as alert and observant as they could be during school hours. A study was done on 1,000 high school students and 90% reported feeling lethargic from sleep deprivation, with supported evidence that it had affected their school performance.3 A lack of sleep at a young age also increases ones chances of developing a learning disorder. Although there are other factors that influence student’s performance, sleep is a major one.
This report outlines the relationship between sleep deprivation among high school students and their academic performance. Academic performance in a way is immeasurable. It is commonly thought that it is measured based on the student’s marks in school, however performance is defined as the manner in which something reacts or fulfills its intended
1 Shields, M. (2005, November 16). “Study: Insomnia.” Statistics Canada. Retrieved May 27, 2010,
2 “Why Catching Up on Sleep Doesn’t Work.” (2007, July 24). Cure:Insomnia . Retrieved May 27, 2010,
3 Taras, H. (n.d.). “Poor Sleep, Poor Grades.” The National Parenting Center. Retrieved May 27, 2010,
purpose.4 Meaning, it’s the amount of effort one puts into their work in an attempt to succeed. A student can try their hardest to complete an assignment yet they still may not fully achieve the teacher’s requirements leaving them with an adequate mark. Although that does not normally seem to be the case, it does happen. For the sake of this report however, it is being measured based on marks. The amount of sleep a person has had can evidentially enough, be measured on a timely basis (hourly, etc.). As one sleeps, they go through 5 series of phases which include5:
Stage 1: This is the transition between wakefulness and sleep. It is a relatively light sleep stage. The brain produces high amplitudes of theta waves. Eyes tend to move slowly and muscle activity slows down. Many people get muscle contractions during this stage. Light sleep lasts from 5 to 10 minutes.
Stage 2: Eye movement stops, brain waves slow down and occasionally produce bursts of sleep spindles (brain activity). Heart rate slows down and body temperature decreases. This phase lasts about 20 minutes.
Stage 3: This is the transitional stage between light sleep to deep sleep. Very slow brain waves called delta waves start to produce.
Stage 4: This is often known as the “Delta Sleep” since the brain excessively produces delta waves. There is no eye or muscle movement. It is during this stage that people experience sleep walking, nightmares and bed wetting. This deep sleep usually happens for 30 minutes.
Stage 5: This is the most commonly known stage – REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. This is when most dreams occur. Breathing becomes more quick, eyes move rapidly, limb muscles are temporarily paralyzed (to prevent one’s body from physically acting out their dream), brain waves amplify to the equivalent level that they are at when one is awake, also heart and blood rate increases. It is during this stage that males typically develop an erection and if the person sleeping is woken
4 ” Performance – Define Performance.” (n.d.). Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words. Retrieved May 27, 2010,
5 “Stages of Sleep.” (n.d.). Sleepdex – Resources for better sleep. Retrieved May 27, 2010,
up, they most likely will be able to remember their dream. REM sleep occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. The first cycle of REM sleep lasts a short amount of time, but with each series that occurs, the phase can gradually get longer and longer.
However, these sleeping phases do not happen in sequence. We start off in stage 1, move into stage 2, 3 and 4. After stage 4, we go back and stage 3 and 2 are repeated before we enter into stage 5. Once REM sleep is completed, the body goes back to stage 2 and the cycle repeats again up to 4-5 times on average, if one is getting the right amount of sleep.
An insufficient amount of sleep, especially at a young age, can manifest into challenging illnesses. As previously stated, sleep deprivation can result in depressive and oppositional behaviour, irritability, poor impulse control and/or over activity – all of which are some characteristics of common learning disorders. Research has shown that relationships exist between inadequate sleep among children and developing Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB), Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). 6 These syndromes can make simple tasks involved with learning, difficult for those who suffer from it. The Learn Disability Association of Canada (LDAC) found that over 80% of people with learning disabilities struggle with reading. 35% of students with learning disabilities end up dropping out of school all together. 7 A study showed that among adults ranging from 20-29 years of age, 28.3% had less than a high school certificate due to learning disabilities. 8 These factors obviously make it tough for students to achieve exceptional marks and work to the best of their ability, but what may be part of the solution would be setting good sleeping habits throughout their lives.
6 Ivanenko, A. (n.d.). “Sleep and Psychiatric Disorders in Children and Adolescents.” Google Books. Retrieved May 27, 2010,
7 Gudbranson, C. (2000, June 7). “Learning Disabilities Association of Canada – Library and Archives.” Learning Disabilities Association of Canada Activities. Retrieved May 27, 2010,
8 “PACFOLD.” (n.d.). Highlights of Putting a Canadian Face. Retrieved May 27, 2010,
The information collected for this report to substantiate the negative effects sleep deprivation have on student’s academic performance was gathered from an online survey (which is attached as Appendix A) and was conducted on Wednesday, May 20th, 2010 at Iroquois Ridge High School. Thirty-five students from grades 9 through to Super Seniors took part in the survey. Since the analysis does not involve experimental manipulation, it is considered an observational study. Followed by the initial survey, students that were not getting the recommended amount of sleep each night were asked to do a follow up survey (which is attached as Appendix B) in order to determine the reason why they are not getting enough sleep, and to grasp their awareness on the topic.
The data was accumulated by clustered/multistage sampling. The seven participants selected from each grade, all from different cliques, filled out the survey and represented the larger population of Iroquois Ridge High School and out of those, whoever was not getting the right amount of sleep did a second survey. Students were picked from different groups to help prevent bias opinions that can be influenced by friends. Seeing as the thirty-five chosen students do not make up for a significant percentage of the total population, this creates a bias since they are speaking for the entire school.
Other components that could have skewed the final results would be response bias. There is the chance that some students may have lied about their average in school due to embarrassment, or even about having a learning disability or bedtime for the same reason. One way that the affects of this inclination could have been decreased would be if a larger population were surveyed, that way the response bias could be outweighed and the overall results would be more reliable.
The student’s average in school, alertness and hours of sleep per night were questioned in order to correlate the effects that sleep has on one’s academic performance. To get a good understanding of why the individuals who suffered from sleep deprivation lacked sleep, they were directed to fill out a second, slightly more in depth survey to get a grasp of the student’s awareness of the importance of sleep, by asking them to identify illnesses that connect with not getting enough sleep each night and for the reasons why they are not getting a sufficient amount of sleep.
Thirty-five students attending Iroquois Ridge High School were given a survey in order to answer the question: “Does sleep deprivation have an effect on student’s academic performance?” The results showed that sleeping patterns do affect ones performance and that 22 out of 35 students (63%) were not getting the recommended 8-9 hours of sleep per night, as shown in both Figure 1 and Figure 2.
Figure 1 is a bar graph that displays the results that were collected when 35 high school students were asked “How Many Hours of Sleep Do You Get Each Night?”
Most students seem to receive 6 to 7 hours of sleep per night.
Figure 2 is a pie chart that shows the average hours of sleep students get each night. It represents each total as a percentage of all responses. Merely 37% of students are getting the proper amount of sleep while the other 63% are not.
Trying to Catch Up Can Be Too Much
As a result of not getting enough sleep, students tend to try and make up for lost time by taking long naps, sleeping in when they should be at school, during class and sleeping in during weekends. However, these methods are detrimental because they mess up with the person’s body clock. In some cases, too much sleep can result in a disorder called hypersomnia. Hypersomnia is clinically defined as getting more than 10 hours of sleep per night and feeling daytime drowsiness.9 Surveyors were asked how often they would rate themselves sleeping in during their first period class and ending up late, due to tiredness. The outcome was that 12% of respondents never had this issue, 26% rarely did, 31% would experience it sometimes, 20% had it happen often and 11% of students always have this problem.
Figure 3 is a frequency pie chart that shows how often students ranging from grade 9 through to Super Seniors, end up running late to their first period class due to over-sleeping.
Participants who were depriving themselves of sleep were further questioned in order to find out why. What were they doing that was keeping them up during the night? The most common factors were having stressful lives, part-time jobs and staying up on the computer/ playing video games. Followed by that was too much homework, hanging out with friends, living in a noisy environment, watching television, participating in sports/exercising, and not
9 “Sleep Disorder Types and Symptoms.” (n.d.). Sleep-Deprivation.com. Retrieved May 28, 2010,
being in a comfortable temperature. Options that were not factors at all included having bad dreams and doing chores. A Norwegian survey done on 25,000 people found that individuals who having problems sleeping are most likely suffering from depression and anxiety.
It’s All About Routine and Discipline
Based on the results of the survey, the vast majority of students are able to sleep whenever they want seeing as they do not have a set bedtime that is enforced by their parents.
Figure 4 is the representation of the amount of students that have a set bedtime for every week night that has been imposed by their parents/guardian. It is evident that most high school students do not have such discipline, but a small 17% do.
This leads to adolescents having an imbalanced body clock and if such a pattern develops at a younger age, it increases one’s chances of developing a disorder, as previously mentioned. Teenagers with bad sleeping habits are 6.5 times likely to have metabolic syndrome than people who follow a good routine.10 Adolescents benefit from having constant sleep times that allow them to have the sufficient quantity of hours that they need. This is significantly affected by having regular bed times and rising times throughout the weekend as well. Just like when they were younger, parents need to get involved with their children’s sleeping schedule. Within this collected data 6 out of the 35 students claim to have bedtimes, all of which got approximately 8 hours of sleep a night with an average mark of 75%. While the rest of the students get about 7 hours of sleep a night with a 66% average in school.
10 Pytel, B. (2007, October 4). “Lack of Sleep Can Kill: How Dangerous Is Not Sleeping?.” Student Health Issues. Retrieved May 28, 2010,
The Relationship between Hours of Sleep and Alertness
A study done by the U.S. Army drew the conclusion that the loss of just one and a half hours of sleep can result in a 32% reduction in daytime alertness. 11 A similar outcome appeared in the analyzed data of the students attending Iroquois Ridge High School.
Figure 5 (below) is a scatter plot that shows correlation between the student’s alertness from the time they wake up until lunch, based on the average amount of sleep they get each night. Each student was asked to rate their alertness on a scale of 1-5; 1 being not alert at all and 5 being extremely alert. This data was then correlated with the hours of sleep the students get each night, for a correlation of approximately 55.8%.
The outcome of this examination had a strong correlation between alertness in the morning and the average hours slept at night. This means that the fewer hours of sleep someone gets, the less alert they will be and visa versa. The reason for this would be that the body was not able to completely rest and regenerate itself as it should, so upon trying to function normally the following morning, it will not be able to perform to the best of the person’s ability. The correlation between these two variables was 0.56, proving that getting the right amount of sleep does greatly affect attentiveness.
The Relationship between Hours of Sleep and Academic Performance/Grades
Jennifer Peszka, a psychologist, conducted a survey on freshman at Hendrix College in order to distinguish students as either owls (later nighters), or larks ( moderately early birds).
11 “Sleep Debt | Sleep Deprivation.” (2010, May 8). Google. Retrieved May 28, 2010,
From there she looked at how that associated with the student’s Grade Point Average (GPA). Sure enough, the owls averaged at 2.84 while the larks earned 3.18.12 The results of the survey done for students at Iroquois Ridge High School ended up with a very similar outcome.
Figure 6 (below) is a scatter plot that shows correlation between the student’s average in school and the average amount of sleep they get each night. Each student was asked to identify their average in school based on the intervals of 10 from 0% – 100%. This data was then correlated with amount of sleep each student gets per night, for a correlation of approximately 63.9%.
The results from this portion of the survey had very strong correlation between the student’s grade and amount of sleep they were getting. Ultimately, this means that student’s who get the recommended amount of sleep each night consistently, will be able to work to the best of their ability during school which should help their overall average. On the contrary, students who lack sleep have a decrease in both physical and mental performance. The correlation between both variables was 0.64, further proving the point that sleep deprivation can negatively impact ones academic performance.
If more time and resources were available to do the survey, it would have conducted much differently. Firstly, a larger group of students would be sampled to get a better grasp of
12 Park, A. (2009, June 10). “Larks and Owls: How Sleep Habits Affect Grades.” TIME.com. Retrieved May 28, 2010,
the general population as oppose to just thirty-five students representing everyone. As mentioned before, a larger population will also help outweigh the response bias. The written portion of the survey would be kept online because that appeals to my target audience (teenagers). However, the questions will be more concise. This way, there can be shorter questions that target certain areas of the study.
To make the survey more reliable, various voluntary respondents, all with different lifestyles, will have their academic performance measured based on their visible level of alertness, as well as their actual marks. After going through their regular daily routine and prepare to go to sleep at whatever time is normal for them, they will be monitored in their sleep using an Electroencephalography (EEG). This measures brain waves and if read properly, it can tell the observant which stage of sleep the person is in. Upon waking up at their normal time, the phase at which they were sleeping in until they were woken up will be able to be determined. With that, predictions can be made on the type of day the person will have due to their emotional, physical and mental behaviour.
Medical Records of the surveyor as well as any information on their family history will be reviewed to get a better understanding of where they came from and what their health is like. Ambitions, goals, hobbies, failures, fears, successes and experiences (good or bad) will be discussed with each candidate in hopes of figuring out where their head is at.
A factor that could have been tested would have been the level of discipline with each student whether it’d be with oneself or at home from their parents/guardian – in terms of school work and sleeping habits. This data could be collected simply by asking; however, physically accompanying the student and observing would be much more reliable.
The importance of this topic is not as widely known as it should be. Students, parents and teachers need to be informed about the effects that sleep deprivation can have on not only students, but everybody. The negative impact sleep deprivation can have on someone’s body, whether it’s physical, mental and/or emotional, is alarming. Try combining all of those struggles and productively make it through a day of school. If the topic were to be further discussed, studied and brought to awareness, academic levels of children all around the world could increase. Not to mention a decrease in depression, mental illnesses, insomnia and more if people decide to change their sleeping patterns to better themselves.
The relationship between the amount of sleep a person gets and their performance academically correspond to one another quite well. This summative and the statistical data as well as research within it proves that the less sleep a student has will typically result in lower grades. Whereas getting the right amount of sleep (but not too much) can positively influence their performance. The key is to get your required amount of sleep each night. For teenagers, that is anywhere between 8.5 to 9 hours of rest. Out of the students surveyed at Iroquois Ridge High School, 34% claimed to be getting the proper amount of sleep. Adolescents would greatly benefit from having a regular, consistent sleeping pattern throughout the week, including the weekend. Meaning they go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. This helps their body clock run by routine. Not getting enough sleep can result of a number of illnesses which in turn, will affect not only the student’s marks but their health as well. 63% of students surveyed said they got less than the recommended length of rest time. In both Figure 5 and Figure 6, it is evident that this took a negative toll on the student’s alertness as well as grades in school. Due to not getting enough rest during the week, teenagers often catch up by sleeping in on weekends. Contrary to popular belief, it is not possible to make up for lost sleep whether it’d be by napping or sleeping in on weekends. Getting too much sleep can cause Hypersomnia which leaves victims feeling drowsy all day after having 10 or more hours of sleep the night before. Only 3% of surveyors stated to be getting more sleep then they need. However, in correlation to alertness and marks, it did not seem to have much of a negative impact. If the subject were to be discussed and researched even further, conclusions as to what chemicals are released when they body is at rest can be drawn. With this information, medication and cures for sleeping disorders can be created to help those who suffer. Generally speaking, sleep and performance seem to go hand in hand. Teenagers need to set up their body clocks so that there is a set routine, with consists of falling asleep and waking up at the same time every day. Ultimately this will result in better academic performance as well as health.
Gudbranson, C. (2000, June 7). “Learning Disabilities Association of Canada – Library and Archives.” Learning
Disabilities Association of Canada Activities. Retrieved May 27, 2010
Ivanenko, A. (n.d.). “Sleep and Psychiatric Disorders in Children and Adolescents.” Google Books. Retrieved
May 27, 2010,
“PACFOLD.” (n.d.). Highlights of Putting a Canadian Face. Retrieved May 27, 2010
Park, A. (2009, June 10). “Larks and Owls: How Sleep Habits Affect Grades.” TIME.com. Retrieved May 28,
“Performance – Define Performance.” (n.d.). Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words. Retrieved May 27,
Pytel, B. (2007, October 4). “Lack of Sleep Can Kill: How Dangerous Is Not Sleeping?.” Student Health Issues.
Retrieved May 28, 2010
Shields, M. (2005, November 16). “Study: Insomnia.” Statistics Canada. Retrieved May 27, 2010
“Sleep Debt | Sleep Deprivation.” (2010, May 8). Google. Retrieved May 28, 2010
“Sleep Disorder Types and Symptoms.” (n.d.). Sleep-Deprivation.com. Retrieved May 28, 2010
“Stages of Sleep.” (n.d.). Sleepdex – Resources for better sleep. Retrieved May 27, 2010
Taras, H. (n.d.). “Poor Sleep, Poor Grades.” The National Parenting Center. Retrieved May 27, 2010
“Why Catching Up on Sleep Doesn’t Work.” (2007, July 24). Cure:Insomnia . Retrieved May 27, 2010
“Why Sleep is Important and What Happens When We Don’t Get Enough.” (n.d.). American Psychological
Association. Retrieved May 28, 2010
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