Head-to-Head – Against 24-Hour Opening

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The thought of revision and examination periods makes any student’s stomach turn. It’s the time to get down to the nitty gritty of what getting a degree is all about – digging out all your lecture notes, condensing and learning them, then tackling an exam paper. The library’s plan to trial a 24-hour opening period, Sunday to Friday, during exams this summer will enable to students to study at whatever time they choose, and have access to all materials at all times. This should be exactly what students need, right?

Wrong. The library’s planned 24/5 opening times will not only encourage students to revise at ridiculous hours in the morning but it will also have a detrimental effect on their exam results. Revising during the night disturbs your sleeping pattern (although admittedly students’ sleeping patterns are probably not very regular anyway), which affects your academic performance.
A study done in 2012 by the University of California found that, after tracking a group a students’ revision and sleeping hours, those who crammed in their revision overnight were more likely to encounter academic problems the next day. The professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the university, Andrew Fuligni, said that “when [students] crammed, they got significantly less sleep and when that happens, it’s more difficult to learn what you’re studying.”

These opening hours will encourage students to study instead of sleep, which in turn will reduce their ability to learn. It is recommended that we need between eight and nine hours sleep per night, with teenagers needing slightly more. How can we come anywhere near achieving that target when it is apparently deemed acceptable to study all night instead?

As if things couldn’t be any worse, studying overnight increases stress levels, which again prevents a good night’s sleep. Although the library is responding to students’ desires, we seem to have forgotten the negative effects that such a decision can have. Studying for exams is stressful enough anyway without factoring in the possibility of overnight study. Increased stress and a lack of sleep affect your mood and even your memory capacity. 24-hour opening times, meaning even more opportunity to study overnight, cannot be in any way conducive to succeeding in examinations.

After a busy day of lectures and revision, the last thing I feel like doing once it gets to about nine in the evening is going to the library to do more work. Night time should be the relaxed, stress-free point in the day. We can take a break from our busy daytime lives and do something that we enjoy, whether that’s watching TV, catching up with friends, or having a quiet drink in a bar. The secret to being well prepared for exams and to minimising stress levels is planning breaks as well as revision hours. A break should always come immediately before you go to bed to allow you to wind down. Revision should be done predominately during the day or early evening and not at three o’clock in the morning.

Having 24-hour opening is almost like giving students a plan B. If they don’t find the time to revise during the day, then that’s alright because there’s always the chance to revise all night the day before the exam because the library is open. Nothing could be worse exam practice. Instead of resorting to this plan B, we should be encouraging students to come up with a realistic revision timetable, including breaks, so that there shouldn’t even be a demand for longer library opening hours. If we bow down to what many see as the inevitable ‘moving with the times’ and open our library for 24 hours five days a week, we’ll soon see a detrimental effect on both exam results and students’ well-being alike. Lancaster might be in the minority concerning 24-hour libraries, but surely it is better to encourage healthy exam practice rather than turning our students into nocturnal workaholics.

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