Hey College kids! Wake up!…Do you see what time it is? I just finished reading a report in the Journal of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) about college student’s sleep habits in relation to academic performance. Those of us who have been to college or are currently in college understand the demands that studying places on sleep habits. Cramming for exams, studying, or writing papers can lead to late bedtimes.
Luckily for some, classes can be scheduled so that first classes the next day can start mid-morning instead of at sunrise, still allowing the student to get eight hours of sleep. Recent studies reveal however that this long standing tradition of ‘late to bed, late to rise’ may not be the best thing for academic performance.
A 2009 study revealed that even more important than total amount of sleep time is maintaining natural circadian rhythms for sleep. In other words, humans are hard wired to wake up in the morning and go to sleep when it gets dark. Adhering to a sleep schedule that more closely relates to our natural rhythms has been shown to be beneficial to student’s academic performance. Another way to say this is total sleep time is important, but getting to bed earlier and waking early is better than going to bed late and waking late.
Remember all the discussions lately about moving High school start times so that school starts later. The idea behind this movement was the knowledge that high school age children need more sleep per night (approx 9 hours) compared to other age children. It was believed that the later start should allow the high school age student to learn better. Unfortunately, results from the Minneapolis Public Schools showed that a late start may not give the expected results. In fact the later wake up times may be the cause associated with lower average grades that occurred after the change.
As it turned out, college students in the AASDM study that fell asleep about 1 hour earlier on average and awakened about 1 hour earlier performed higher academically. Higher performing students find a way to shift their sleep phases somewhat earlier than lower performing students.
So let’s give a collective thank you to Ben Franklin for his futuristic recommendation. “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”