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Will Extra Sleep Help Finals Week? Penn State Professor Weighs In

With finals week right around the corner, the idea of sleep is on every student’s mind, but not always in the cards. Getting a little more than you’re used to should be, though. When it comes to being prepared for tests, presentations and everything in between, getting a good night’s sleep is essential to daily functioning.

But what would happen if we extended our sleep just a little?

Recently, a new study put out by Penn State researchers suggests that getting a little extra sleep at night can help in the long run. However, to maximize benefit, additional sleep times should be kept to under an hour.

Anne-Marie Chang, an assistant professor of biobehavioral health and nursing, was one of the leading researchers in the study. She explained that while she’d been doing sleep research for about 20 years, she wanted to focus more on examining the ways sleep can be improved for adolescents and young adults.

“One of the undergraduate students working with me in my lab was interested in the topic of sleep duration,” Chang said. “And its relationship with the cardiovascular outcomes in college students. We designed the sleep extension study, conducted with Penn State undergrads.”

Chang said the study was a two-week experiment involving a “habitual” week of sleep for week one, followed by a week of sleep extension. During that second week, participants were asked to add an additional hour per night.

The study wasn’t based on a standard sleep schedule but instead based on the individual participant’s regular schedule, and how they slept regularly. For example, if someone slept for 7 hours regularly, they were asked to add on an additional hour of sleep for 8 hours.

The study showed that a little extra sleep not only can reduce daytime sleepiness but also blood pressure.

So what exactly does this mean for the busy college student?

For college students, it’s very possible to add on that little extra time of sleep. Chang said that the reason the participants were able to sleep more was because of their flexibility with their sleep schedules, something more college students should have.

“I would recommend making sleep a priority,” Chang said. “Commit to getting more sleep, even if it is a small amount of sleep extension.”

According to Chang, there are many ways to accomplish this. She recommends consuming less caffeine and alcohol and avoiding digital screen time exposure in the hours before bedtime. Exercising regularly and making sure your sleep environment is comfortable can also help.

So, next time you’re thinking of staying up and binging the latest bad Christmas movie on Netflix, think of what a little extra sleep might do to help you with that final in the morning. You, your grades, and your blood pressure will thank Chang, later.

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About the Author

Alexandra Ramos

Alexandra Ramos is a senior majoring in digital-print journalism with a minor in English. She's been writing for a long time now and has loved every second of it, and Penn State, as well as her love for her school, has been a huge factor in her life. Catch her probably eating a slice of pizza and probably writing herself into oblivion before senioritis catches up with her.

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