How Does Insomnia Affect Your Ability to Study and What Can You Do?


Students often study late into the night or even pull “-all-nighters” to cram before a big test. Staying up purposefully is different from insomnia, which can make it hard to fall or stay asleep even when you feel tired. Insomnia, even if only for a night or two, can impact your ability to function normally.

This can interfere with your learning, memory, and cognition and could potentially lead to lower grades as well. Not only that, but insomnia can also impact your well-being. This article covers some of the ways that insomnia can affect your ability to study and learn.

Stress Levels


School, work, and life in general can be quite stressful. You may have to balance schedules, relationships, and more. But if you suffer from insomnia, then you know that it can be stressful to lie awake in bed watching the hours tick by.

When you do not get enough sleep, you may find that your stress levels are higher. This, in turn, makes it harder to sleep. This cycle can be difficult to break and can harm your wellbeing.

Higher stress can also make it harder to concentrate and study. You may be worrying so much that you are distracted or even procrastinate to avoid the uncomfortable stress. Since this cycle can be hard to break on your own and may make you feel hopeless or crazy, it is important to get the stress and insomnia under control.

If you suffer from insomnia and your stress levels aren’t making it any easier to get some sleep, you may find BetterHelp useful. They have advice provided by therapists that may help you control your stress, anxiety, or insomnia. You may find a coping technique or sleep recommendation that works.

Information Processing

While the reason we need sleep every night is not completely understood, there is evidence that we process the information from throughout the day when we are sleeping. This allows us to store and organize the information into memories that we can access later.

When we are sleeping the brain sorts through our memories and processes them. It will get rid of memories that are not important and secure the information and memories that are. As we continue through REM sleep, we continue to fully process the information and memories. This can also help you cope with difficult experiences.



When we go through the four stages of sleep, it prepares our brain to learn new information when we wake up and go about your day. If you suffer from insomnia, you may not learn as much in the classes the next day. Not getting enough sleep can actually lower the ability to learn by as much as 40 percent!

Furthermore, sleep deprivation can make it harder to concentrate and focus, which is crucial for proper learning. If you cannot focus on the new information, then how are you supposed to learn it?


When people do not get enough sleep, whether from insomnia or something else, it may be harder to remember things. The brain will not have enough time to create new pathways for learned information, which can impact the ability to adequately store the information as an important memory.

Sleep deprivation can make it harder to think clearly as well. Basically, our brain requires sleep to work at an optimal level. While reduced sleep for a couple nights is unlikely to severely impact cognition, getting no sleep for just a single night can be detrimental to your cognitive function.



Being in a good mood before work, class, or a study session can make it more enjoyable, which may actually improve your effectiveness. Not getting enough sleep can make us irritable and easily agitated. Not only can this impact your ability to study, but it can negatively affect your relationships and your own wellbeing.

Lack of sleep can also cause low energy levels and mental and physical fatigue. This makes it hard to stay motivated for your responsibilities. You may understand that you should study but feel too worn down to do anything about it.

Problem Solving

Insomnia can also affect problem-solving skills. You may find that you have trouble figuring things out or that you take longer to complete certain tasks. It can also make it harder to organize and plan. When your judgment is affected, you may not be as successful while studying.

What Can You Do?


So, you can’t sleep, and it is affecting your mental health and ability to function, but you have not figured out what to do to help. There are some self-help strategies that may be effective as well as other options that you may want to consider if you suffer from insomnia.

1. Sleep Hygiene

Having good habits can go a long way towards a better night of rest. Make sure that you have a dark, comfortable, and quiet bedroom to sleep in. If necessary, you can wear a mask, use ear plugs, or add blackout curtains.

Try to stick to a routine that you can follow every day of the week, even weekends. This means that you need to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.

It may also help to avoid screens for the hour leading up to your bedtime. Electronic screens give off blue light that can impact your melatonin levels and make it harder to fall asleep. You should also avoid any stimulating activity before bed. Instead, try reading a book!

Finally, avoid caffeine after noon and if you must nap during the day, make sure that it is early and short enough that it will not affect your sleep. You may also find that drinking less fluids in the hours leading up to bedtime can help you relax and fall asleep before you must go to the bathroom.

2. Learn to Relax


If you head to bed while you are tense and on-edge, then that can make it harder to relax into a deep sleep. A lot of people with insomnia find that their thoughts keep them up as well. Learning to relax can help a lot if this is the case, but you have to know how.

Some people like to stay out of their head by imagining a peaceful setting and story. You can also focus on taking slow, deep breathes. Try not to focus on getting to sleep. Instead, try to be okay with just relaxing.

You can also use mindfulness meditation to relax. As you sit or lie in bed, focus on your natural breathing and the way that your body feels. Allow thoughts and feelings to pass by without judging them and then return to your breathing. This can relax the mind and body enough to fall asleep.

3. Therapy

Insomnia can be terrible for quality of life, but therapy may be an effective option as well. Cognitive- behavioral therapy (CBT) can change your negative thinking process and emotions that may be affecting your ability to sleep. It does not have the side effects or other restraints that medications have, and it could be just as effective or even more so.


Insomnia can make it hard to concentrate and learn, which can make your studying less effective. This can cause grades to drop in addition to affecting your well-being. Good thing there are options from relaxing strategies to CBT that you can try to get your sleep habits back to normal.