Are you a morning lark or a night owl? Or a finch is a more appropriate simile? These terms, which describe activity patterns, appear to be able to boost your academic performance if taken into account when scheduling classes. A new research has revealed that academic outcomes can be affected by the time you attend classes, with night owls being more susceptible to such mismatches.
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The largest of its kind
A team of scientists from the University of California has recently reported that those who tend to wake up in the morning without having to hit the snooze button several times are more likely to perform better if they study in the morning. The opposite is true: night owls achieve better academic outcomes when studying in the afternoon. Conversely, as far as “owls” are concerned, having to try to make your brains work appropriately at the crack of dawn is likely to result in poorer grades.
The researchers collected information on students’ preferences in terms of daily activities and compared it with their academic performance. The information they obtained was from the campus servers the students logged in – they have a special learning management system. First, the scientists looked at the days on which the students had no classes. Judging by their activities, the researchers divided them into “larks”, “owls” and “finches”. There were almost 15,000 activity profiles analyzed – it’s one of the largest studies of its kind so far.
Having compared activity patterns with academic performance of the students, the team found that there was a correlation between their grades and the degree of classes being out of sync with the students’ circadian rhythms. According to scientists, the cause behind is the so-called “social jet lag”. The term is used to denote cases of alertness time and work/class/some other activity that requires thinking mismatching. Those students who were “night owls” but had to attend classes at first light performed not as well as the students who were “larks” or “finches”.
While the effect is seen in all the three groups, “night owls” seem to be hit hardest, as the correlation is strongest in their case.
Besides poorer performance, one of the downsides of being a “night owl” studying in the morning is that class-induced social jet lag often affects other activities, even if they are done at later hours. Such people are prone to sleep deprivation, and chronic fatigue, exacerbated by morning classes, makes it difficult for them to work even at their most “comfortable” hours.
The researchers urged students who have the same problem to reschedule their classes in such a way so that they can correspond to their circadian rhythms. When the scientists compared the schedules arranged by the students in 2014-2016, they found that around 40% of students synced their classes with their owl biological clocks. As a result, their performance improved, and so did their GPAs.
Not the only factor
While predisposition definitely plays a significant role, there are other factors which contribute to chronic fatigue and messed up sleeping time, ranging from shift work to social networks. It may seem that night owls are less productive, but it appears that in most of them it’s not the case.
Tailoring your schedule to your biological clock can help you achieve better results. Since circadian rhythms are important for regulation of many a process, not taking them into account can have such implications as fatigue, obesity and other diseases.
Poor grades tied to class times that don’t match our biological clocks – News.berkeley.edu