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College Kids, Sleep and the GPA Connection

Tips to Turn Your Night Owl into a Healthier Morning Person...with Better Grades


College Kids, Sleep and the GPA Connection
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy … and gets him better grades in college. A study on college students' sleep patterns, led by researchers at the University of North Texas in 2008, found that college kids who were night people had lower GPAs than morning people. How dramatic was the discrepancy? A "full letter-grade difference," says one of the study's authors, Dr. Daniel Taylor. And, other studies have found connections between adequate adolescent sleep habits, heightened emotional well-being and lower blood pressure.

In other words, college kids who use their newfound freedom to stay up all night are courting health problems, as well as academic. It's enough to make anyone rethink the wisdom of sleep deprivation and all-nighters. Turn a night owl into a morning lark, and it may result in healthier kids and significantly better grades. That's easy to say, of course, and significantly harder to do. Researchers affiliated with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggest that college kids reset their internal clocks, a little bit at a time over several weeks, by following these tips:

  • Don’t pull all-nighters or cram for exams late at night. Instead, do your intense studying in the morning, when your brain is fresh and alert. Schedule study sessions for afternoon.

  • Beer and pizza are not good bedtime choices. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, heavy exercise and heavy snacking before bedtime.

  • Go to bed at the same time every night – ideally by midnight, so you can get a full night’s sleep.

  • College kids may consider themselves too old for warm milk and “Goodnight Moon,” but they should make their bedtime routines soothing and consistent. Turn off the cell phone and laptop. Read a book or listen to quiet music.

  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark – or if you live in a dorm, invest in a pair of earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones, and a sleep mask.

  • Rise at the same time every morning, and get outside. Sunlight helps reset circadian rhythms.
It may be impossible to fall asleep as early as doctors recommend. Dorms are not known for their peaceful, late night atmosphere. But Taylor’s final piece of advice will resonate with sleepy college kids everywhere: avoid 8 a.m. classes.
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