The Tricky Balance Between Study and Sleep

A “Chicken or Egg” Dilemma, and How Students Can Fix It

Story by: Jace Puckett

College is a precarious balance between students’ social lives and classes; careers and exams; and, perhaps most importantly, sleeping and studying. Putting off study time can lead to long nights of cramming; conversely, losing sleep can cause students to crash instead of studying. It easily becomes a matter of “chicken or egg”—which came first, and which causes which?

It isn’t uncommon for students to seek help with their study and/or sleep habits: Jordan Easley, an academic coach at Austin Community College’s San Gabriel campus, estimated that around 80 to 90 percent of the students he sees report poor sleeping habits in addition to poor study habits.

“I definitely make it a priority to make sure everyone is healthy, treating themselves right, and not burning out, because all of it is very interconnected,” Easley said. 

“Having a job, being a parent—which is also a job—or being in school—which is also a job—they’re all a form of obligation. I think that people give themselves the most leniency when it comes to schoolwork because they see it as something that is more flexible. … They tend to underestimate the amount of time and effort that it will take to complete an assignment, so I think that’s the one [obligation] that gets dropped the most often.”

On the other hand, it’s easy to justify losing sleep to study, according to an article on Study International News.

 “Most students probably know that depriving themselves from sleep is bad,” author Sharuna Segaren, a senior education journalist at Study International, reports. 

“But nonetheless they’re willing to sacrifice sleep and as a consequence, health, telling themselves it’s just for a short time and they can soon start sleeping 12-hours a day once the semester draws to a close.”

To find a better balance between time spent studying and time spent sleeping, Danny Ugarte, an exercise fitness major at ACC, suggested separating classwork into daily tasks depending on when each assignment was due. He lamented about his misunderstanding of assignment deadlines: 

“I’ve had plenty of times when I thought that something was due on one day and it wasn’t, so I ended up not sleeping that night and doing the assignment.”

Easley stressed the importance of time management and prioritizing. Students can determine what is the most pressing task at hand and complete it first so that they have more time for what matters most to them.

“You have to know what’s important to you. If your classwork is important to you, you have to make the time for it. If your work is important to you, you have to make the time for it. If your family is important to you, you make the time for it. Make your sleep and your health important to you, and make the time for it.”