At a time when several studies have highlighted the relationship between sleep, learning and memory processes, an in-depth analysis of the effects of sleep deprivation on student learning ability and academic performance would appear to be essential. Most studies have been naturalistic correlative investigations, where sleep schedules were correlated with school and academic achievement. Nonetheless, some authors were able to actively manipulate sleep in order to observe neurocognitive and behavioral consequences, such as learning, memory capacity and school performance. The findings strongly suggest that: (a) students of different education levels (from school to university) are chronically sleep deprived or suffer from poor sleep quality and consequent daytime sleepiness; (b) sleep quality and quantity are closely related to student learning capacity and academic performance; (c) sleep loss is frequently associated with poor declarative and procedural learning in students; (d) studies in which sleep was actively restricted or optimized showed, respectively, a worsening and an improvement in neurocognitive and academic performance. These results may been related to the specific involvement of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in vulnerability to sleep loss. Most methodological limitations are discussed and some future research goals are suggested.