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The interaction between sleep quality and academic performance.

Research paper by K K Ahrberg, M M Dresler, S S Niedermaier, A A Steiger, L L Genzel

Indexed on: 09 Oct '12Published on: 09 Oct '12Published in: Journal of Psychiatric Research



Abstract

Sleep quality has significant effects on cognitive performance and is influenced by multiple factors such as stress. Contrary to the ideal, medical students and residents suffer from sleep deprivation and stress at times when they should achieve the greatest amount of learning. In order to examine the relationship between sleep quality and academic performance, 144 medical students undertaking the pre-clinical board exam answered a survey regarding their subjective sleep quality (Pittsburgh sleep quality index, PSQI), grades and subjective stress for three different time points: semester, pre- and post-exam. Academic performance correlated with stress and sleep quality pre-exam (r = 0.276, p < 0.001 and r = 0.158, p < 0.03, note that low performance meant low sleep quality and high stress), however not with the stress or sleep quality during the semester and post-exam. 59% of all participants exhibited clinically relevant sleep disturbances (PSQI > 5) during exam preparation compared to 29% during the semester and 8% post-exam. This study shows that in medical students it is not the generally poor sleepers, who perform worse in the medical board exams. Instead students who will perform worse on their exams seem to be more stressed and suffer from poor sleep quality. However, poor sleep quality may negatively impact test performance as well, creating a vicious circle. Furthermore, the rate of sleep disturbances in medical students should be cause for intervention.