5/12/10 ASHLAND, Ohio --Dr. David Vanata, associate professor of family and consumer sciences at Ashland University, has done extensive research in areas involving nutrition and cognition and warns students that all-nighters result in a decrease in productivity and mental sharpness as well as an increase in stress. While staying up all night to study for an exam during finals week is a fairly common occurrence on a university campus, it is not really a good policy, according to an Ashland University professor.
"It's not the wisest strategy and there are no data to support all-nighters as a successful way to do homework," said Dr. David Vanata, associate professor of family and consumer sciences at Ashland University. "From my experience, I actually equate frequent all-nighters with those students who are stressed and those that receive lower GPAs."
Vanata, who is a registered dietitian, has been involved in nutrition counseling for the last 15 years and has done extensive research in areas involving nutrition and cognition, community nutrition interventions, and nutrition and athletic performance.
"All-nighters tend to result in a decrease in productivity and mental sharpness as well as an increase in stress and negative effects on the body, including risks for heart disease, depression, and a drop in one's immune system," Vanata continued.
Vanata said a person needs eight to nine hours of sleep every night. "You cannot function on four to five hours of sleep," he said. "And you can't make up lost sleep. It's a lost opportunity to repair your body."
He said students need to prepare and plan better to keep from needing to do assignments the night before they are due or trying to memorize weeks of lectures and lessons overnight for an exam the next day. "All-nighters are an indication of a lack of time management. There are adequate hours in the day to do work," he said.
Vanata also advised that students avoid energy drinks, fatty foods such as pizza and other fast food items, and alcohol while doing late-night homework. He recommended eating small portions of fruit or yogurt and having one or two cups of coffee.
Heidi Jones, director of academic advising for Ashland University's College of Arts and Sciences, agreed that a student's best work will most likely not be produced if they are studying in this manner.
"The unfortunate aspect is that it tends not to reflect the students' capabilities," Jones said. "The results are often less than what a student could truly achieve. It's sad for both students and faculty; nobody is fully satisfied."
In the college environment, Jones says, there are many new adjustments to make in terms of academics, living, and socializing.
Both Jones and Vanata agree that what is most important for students to realize is that college is much different from high school. Jones says the completion of a student's work is his or her responsibility, while Vanata says that more effort is needed in college.
"Planning, planning, planning and getting organized about due dates and test dates ahead of time is key," Jones says, further suggesting that students should build in structured time for review, revisions and relaxation.
Jones added that, when studying, it is critical to take 10-minute breaks every 60 to 90 minutes to stand up, move around, get fresh air, and review your work and notes before continuing work. "Eliminating distractions, finding a location that's more conducive to focused work, and having a study friend with you through the night are other positive strategies," Jones said.
Above all, Vanata and Jones believe that the best solution for student success is practicing good time management and establishing a steady sleep and study schedule early on.
Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.