Students Are Out Of Sync With The School Day And It's Badly Affecting Their Grades, According To A New Study

Who speaks for night owls? kagera/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 30 Mar 2018, 18:08

A new study, published in Scientific Reports, has made an interesting correlation between our biological clocks and the grades we achieve at school. After tracking the personal daily online activities of 14,894 college students between 2014 and 2016, they’ve found that students whose internal hourglasses were out of sync with their class times received lower grades than those who were more closely matched up.

Clearly, this suggests that grades overall would improve across the board if classes could somehow be matched up to students’ own circadian rhythms.

The team, from the University of California, Berkeley, and Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), categorized these students into “night owls”, “morning larks”, and “daytime finches” – those not biased toward very early or late waking or sleeping hours. Although some managed to live in-sync lives, most experienced so-called social jet lag (SJL) to some degree.

“A majority of students experience more than 30 minutes of SJL on average,” the study notes.

In total, around 40 percent of the students, all from NEIU, were biologically in-sync with their classes, meaning their peak alertness coincided with their education. In contrast, 10 percent peaked before their classes started and 50 percent peaked afterward.

Overall, the greater the SJL, the more significant the decrease in academic performance that was observed, “especially in people with later apparent chronotypes.” Night owls, then, were affected the most, which makes sense – young adults are generally more biologically (and socially) inclined to sleep later and wake later.

A night owl with a +6 hour SJL, for example, had a GPA of just under 2.8. Someone with no SJL averaged just over a 3.2 GPA. Although the correlation with GPA scores was fairly strong for night owls, it was far weaker for morning larks, so some uncertainty remains.

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