Insomnia and its Effects on Academic Performance of University Students


Omolola Sadik

It is 3:00 a.m. on a chilly Tuesday night. Outside the Kenneth Dike Library, the campus is engulfed in silence, except for the rhythmic sound of crickets. Inside the library is Titi, a sleep-deprived student, reading with an exhausted mind, her eyes sore and baggy from hours of screen exposure and excessive study.

Have you ever found yourself wide awake in the middle of the night, mind racing, tired, but utterly unable to find that desperately needed sleep? Well, we’ve all pulled an all-nighter, or, in common terms, we’ve all done TDB, in the quest for academic achievement, only to face the next day exhausted and unable to focus. But, for some students, the problem is far more than a one-time occurrence. It’s a chronic struggle against a persistent foe— insomnia.

Insomnia is a term all too familiar to students in this sleep-deprived modern age. Cleveland Clinic, in a publication, defines insomnia as experiencing disruptions in how you feel or function because you aren’t sleeping well or sleeping enough. Insomnia is when you aren’t getting as much sleep as you should. This could be in the form of not sleeping enough, not sleeping well, or having trouble falling asleep. Classified as a sleep disorder, insomnia involves difficulties falling asleep or maintaining sleep throughout the night, causing subsequent impaired functionality during the day.

You might wonder: why university students? The relentless pursuit of good grades can trigger anxiety and stress, making it difficult to unwind at night. Irregular sleep schedules, fueled by late-night cramming or social activities, disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Caffeine dependence, excessive screen time before bed, and poor sleep hygiene trigger sleep difficulties. These drastic lifestyle changes, including heightened stress levels and mounting academic pressures, are associated with university life and are conditions that become fertile grounds for insomnia. What begins as a late-night study session can quickly escalate into a chronic battle for rest.

How profound are the Effects of Insomnia on the Academic Performances of University Students?

Insomnia inhibits a person’s ability to sleep or causes them to sleep periodically. These interruptions impact sleep quality, affecting not only our health but our day-to-day productivity as well. Sleep is crucial to memory consolidation and knowledge absorption; hence, it is a key ingredient for a student’s academic success. Chronic sleep deprivation has several implications.

Implications of insomnia include feeling tired, unwell, or sleepy; mood disruptions, especially irritability; trouble concentrating; delayed reflexes; trouble remembering things or slowed thinking; disruptions in work and social routines. These effects greatly hinder our academic potential. Hence, insomnia’s effect on the academic performance of university students cannot be understated. Learning requires attention, focus, and an active cognitive process, all of which are compromised due to sleep deprivation. The inability to fall asleep or stay asleep can wreak havoc on daytime functioning, impacting everything from concentration and memory to mood and motivation.

Titi is just one of the thousands of Nigerian university students battling the exhausting struggle of insomnia and the consequences it brings to their academic lives. Statistics show that approximately 50% of university students experience sleep deprivation or poor-quality sleep. According to a study that assessed sleep quality among the entire student population of a Nigerian university and its association with academic performance and perceived stress, about one out of every two students had poor sleep quality. The academic performance of students with good sleep quality was significantly better than that of those with poor sleep quality, while the level of perceived stress for students with poor sleep quality was also significantly higher than that of those with good sleep quality. A study carried out by Seun-Fadipe and Mosaku, showed 50.1% poor sleep quality in 505 Nigerian university students.

“It is a circular headache,” laments a student of the Department of English who requested anonymity. “I can’t sleep because I need to read so that I can maintain my CGPA, and I can’t read during the day because I have to attend classes and go to work, but when I read constantly at night, I wake up with a serious headache, and the things I read end up not sticking to my head. I forget the things I read easily.”

Sleep deprivation impairs memory, concentration, and critical thinking skills, hindering the ability to absorb and retain information. Insomnia causes exhaustion and reduced productivity. Feeling tired and sluggish throughout the day leads to decreased energy levels, making it difficult to focus on studies and complete tasks efficiently. Insomnia can worsen stress, anxiety, and depression, creating a loop that further disrupts sleep and academic performance. Chronic sleep deprivation also weakens the immune system, making students more susceptible to illnesses and further hindering their ability to attend classes and perform well.

I suffer from insomnia. Many people don’t understand what insomnia truly means. Should I talk about the mental fatigue? The long nights that I am begging God for sleep? The daily depression? At times when I am even able to squeeze in two hours of sleep at night, my performance during the day isn’t optimal. It’s a struggle. A struggle that started during my second year. It took a noticeable dip in my performance last session for me to finally seek help,” confesses Israel, a final-year student.

In conclusion, dear readers, imagine staring at your textbook; your eyelids are as heavy as the textbook itself, yet sleep is just a “vivid imagination”. Insomnia erodes cognitive function, mental health, and immunity— elements vital for excellent academic performance. Fortunately, we need not be creatures of the night; we have a world to face each morning. Insomnia is not a life sentence. Seeking professional help is important for combating insomnia. Simple lifestyle changes can also make a big difference— establishing a regular sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, reducing your screen time at night, avoiding caffeine before bed, and exercising regularly.
Now, dear readers, I will leave you with this question: “How well did you sleep last night?”

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