Sleep in bed, don't study in it

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Photo Credit: Alexandra Vanderhider | Daily Texan Staff

You finally get out of class for the day, and you’re exhausted. All you want to do is sleep, but you’ve got reading and assignments due the next day, maybe even an exam to study for. Studying in your cozy bed may seem like the best solution at this point — why sacrifice comfort and convenience at the end of a long day just to study?

Students should be wary of trying to kill two birds with one stone here. By studying in bed, students run the risk of wrecking both their studying and sleeping habits. Instead of trying to study in a place your body is accustomed to sleeping, you should make the effort to study in an environment where you know you will focus and stay awake.

Nursing professor Patricia Carter teaches a class on the subject — A UGS class for freshmen titled “Sleep: Are We Getting Enough.” Carter said the science behind the counterproductive and contradictory habit is actually quite simple.

“Mixing sleep and study in the same location sends mixed signals to the brain,” Carter wrote in an email. “It does not know which it is supposed to be focusing on. This leads to less effective studying (and) learning, and it makes it harder to fall asleep when you want to.”

Compartmentalization is key here. If you want to study, study somewhere you know you won’t fall asleep. Obviously, your bed shouldn’t be on that list.

Carter has been conducting surveys with her classes over the years, and said that out of approximately 500 surveyed students, 75 to 90 percent admit they study in bed. When asked why, the students’ overall responses are obvious: It’s easier to stay in bed than to move somewhere else to study. Very quickly, Carter said, her students learn how ineffective this is.
“When the students learn how doing non-sleep related activities in bed contributes to their difficulties in falling asleep, they often choose to move their study activities to a ‘learning-friendly’ location, like a library or study hall,” Carter said. “They find that their study efficiency increases and they actually learn better.”

Antonio Hernandez, human development and family sciences senior, admits that before he realized how pointless trying to study in bed was, he would study in bed two to three times a week. He said this was convenient for him. The habit soon caught up with him, though, and Hernandez said it even began to impact his performance in school.

“I would be working on an assignment, and I would be unable to focus because I was too comfortable to study and going to sleep was as easy as just closing my eyes,” Hernandez said via email. “Sometimes, I ended up falling asleep while working on assignments and missed some deadlines, which ultimately affected my grades.”

On a bad day it’s excusable, but habitual studying in bed can only hurt students’ performances in school and damage sleep schedules in the long run. Sleep and studying are essential for every college student, but they shouldn’t be combined out of convenience or, even worse, laziness. Figuring out your ideal study environment is crucial to succeeding academically, so don’t make it your bed.

Caldwell is a Latin American studies and journalism sophomore from College Station.