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Brandon Peters, M.D.

When College Classes Start Late, Students Sleep and Drink More and Get Worse Grades

By June 14, 2011

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For parents who have the opportunity to guide their children's college course schedule, you might want to encourage a few early morning classes, according to recent research presented at SLEEP 2011. Students with later classes were found to sleep more -- which is reassuring -- but they also seem to stay up late drinking and get worse grades overall.

The research was co-authored by Dr. Pamela Thacher and Dr. Serge Onyper of  St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. and included 253 college students. The subjects completed a sleep diary as well as a questionnaire and other cognitive testing. Late class start times were associated with more drinking, more sleep time, and modestly lower grades.

This association is thought to be due, in part, to a delayed sleep schedule, poorer sleep, and more daytime sleepiness. Those with this delayed, "night owl" schedule also drank more alcohol and reported more binge drinking.

Previous studies in younger students, including middle and high schoolers, have strongly suggested that later school start times improve truancy, mood, and learning. However, college students may face distinctive problems related to their sleep. In addition, adolescents overall are more likely to have delayed sleep syndrome, a type of circadian rhythm sleep disorder.

It is recommended that college students follow simple tips to improve their sleep, so that the freedom of their new schedule won't lead to failure.

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