Early Birds Have Academic Advantage Over Night Owls

By Susan Gatanis
The Minstrel

Sleep is an elusive yet essential aspect of college life.

It’s tough for college students to get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night. Between coordinating one’s sleeping habits with a roommate, staying up late finishing assignments, and in general being overloaded with activities, sleep often takes the back burner on the to-do list of students.

Perhaps a new study done by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) will make students reconsider the importance of sleep.

It is a fairly well-known fact that getting the proper amount of sleep is essential to a healthy lifestyle, but many students are unaware that the time you wake up is also important.

An APSS study has proven that an early rising student is more likely to get high grades than a late riser, according to U.S. World and News Report. So even if you stay up all night to finish an assignment and sleep until the afternoon the following day, it probably won’t pay off.

Some students argue that it doesn’t matter that they stay up late if they sleep longer into the afternoon the next day to make up for it.

“During the school week, I go to sleep around 2 or 3 a.m. and wake up around 8:30 a.m.,” stated Mary Paschke, sophomore theater major. “On the weekends, I try to sleep longer,” she added. Paschke feels that by doing this, she is making up for the sleep she lost during the week. She explained that the extra sleep helps her feel better mentally.

Ryan Comstock, senior pharmaceutical marketing major, is similar to Pashke in that he also tries to sleep late in order to catch up on sleep. “I always try to sleep and make-up sleep when I have extra time and no work,” said Comstock.

Unfortunately for Paschke, Comstock, and other night owls, this system is not effective.

In the APSS study, the better scholastic performers were not the students who stayed up all night and tried to “make up for it” the next day. The better performers were instead the students who consistently woke up early. Dr. Daniel P. Taylor, psychology professor at the University of Texas and organizer of the study, said the study results showed that early risers have a grade point average a full letter-grade higher than late risers, according to Medpage Today.

Taylor told Science Daily that the discovery about early risers having higher grade point averages than later risers is an important finding. “These results suggest that it might be possible to improve academic performance by using chronotherapy to help students entrain their biological clock to become more morning types,” stated Taylor. This means that an unbalanced sleeping schedule is a problem that can be solved through resetting one’s biological clock.

As Taylor mentioned, chronotherapy is one way to reset one’s biological clock. Chronotherapy works by gradually adjusting sleeping and rising schedules until acceptable sleeping times are reached and the body is used to waking up at a specific hour.

There are other ways besides chronotherapy that a student can reset his or her sleeping schedule. Exposing oneself to bright light in the morning causes the body to understand that it is time to wake up and start the day, according to CNN.com. CNN.com also suggests that supplements containing melatonin can be taken about five hours prior to sleeping to help reset a biological clock.

Still, these solutions are oftentimes not enough to persuade a student to adjust his or her sleeping habits, which is why some colleges and universities are taking it upon themselves to aid in lessening the sleep-related problems of students. Many college campuses provide seminars and run campaigns to help promote the importance of sleep.

The Boston Globe cited several examples of schools that are promoting sleep on their campuses. At Tufts University, sleep masks, earplugs, and CDs of relaxing music, among other things, are distributed to students to encourage healthy sleeping. Bentley College holds a contest called “The Biggest Snoozer” and awards prizes such as memory foam pillows to the campus’ top sleepers. At Boston University, a sleep seminar program was created after numerous complaints of headaches, fatigue and other sleep-related problems at campus clinics.

To help improve the performance of DeSales students, perhaps the university should consider implementing some of these sleep related programs. After all, a main ingredient for A’s is Z’s.

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