College students sleep longer but drink more and get lower grades when classes start later

Although a class schedule with later start times allows colleges students to get more sleep, it also gives them more time to stay out drinking at night. As a result, their grades are more likely to suffer, suggests a research abstract that will be presented Tuesday, June 14, in Minneapolis, Minn., at SLEEP 2011, the 25th Anniversary Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS).

Results show that later class start times were associated with a delayed sleep schedule, which led to poorer sleep, more , and a lower grade-point average. Students with later class start times also consumed more alcohol and reported more . Students who were "night owls" with a natural preference to stay up later were more likely than "morning types" to have a delayed sleep schedule and to consume more alcohol.

"Later class start times predicted more drinking, more and modestly lower grades, overall," said co-lead author Pamela Thacher, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Psychology at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. "Later class start times seemed to change the choices students make: They sleep longer, and they drink more."

Thacher speculated that drinking more alcohol, which is known to disrupt sleep, may reduce the benefits of getting more sleep.

"The effects of later class start times might include more sleep," she said. "But this might be offset by lower quality sleep, which in turn might affect their ability to engage, intellectually, with their coursework."

Thacher, co-author Serge Onyper, PhD, and their research team studied 253 college students. Participants completed and a one-week retrospective sleep diary, as well as questionnaires about sleep, class schedules, and mood. All data were collected on a weekday one month before the end of the semester. GPA was recorded from university records and self-reports.

Results also show that were attempting to catch up on sleep on the weekends with later rise times and longer sleep durations. Average total sleep time for weekdays and weekends was 8.0 hours.

The authors noted that the results are much different from previous studies of school start times in middle and high school. Those studies show numerous benefits of later school start times, which tend to decrease truancy, improve mood and indirectly promote learning.

In a study published in 2008 in Behavioral Sleep Medicine, Thacher found that 60 percent of student participants at a liberal-arts college reported engaging in a single night of total deprivation once or more since starting college. Statistical analyses found that pulling an "all-nighter" was associated with lower grades.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Start school later in the morning, say sleepy teens

May 20, 2007

A survey of sleep-deprived teens finds they think that a later start time for school and tests given later in the school day would result in better grades. The survey was presented at the American Thoracic Society 2007 International ...

Most High School Students Are Sleep Deprived

Jan 05, 2010

Only about 8 percent of high school students get enough sleep on an average school night, a large new study finds. The others are living with borderline-to-serious sleep deficits that could lead to daytime drowsiness, depression, ...

Recommended for you

Blending faith and science to combat obesity

5 minutes ago

Science and religion may seem like uneasy partners at times, but when it comes to promoting healthy lifestyles, one UConn Health researcher has shown they can be an effective combination.

Research project puts stroke patients back on their feet

12 minutes ago

Finding the will to exercise routinely can be challenging enough for most people, but a stroke presents even more obstacles. Yet aerobic exercise may be crucial for recovery and reducing the risk of another ...

Air quality and unconventional oil and gas sites

3 hours ago

Research suggesting air pollutants released by unconventional oil and gas production are well over recommended levels in the US is published today in the open access journal Environmental Health. High levels of benzene, hydrog ...

FDA cautions against 'undeclared' food allergens

15 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Some food labels may not reliably list all possible food allergens, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency added that these "undeclared allergens" are the leading cause ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.