More on Sleep: Students and Grades
A study was presented at a meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies titled, "Sleep 2011." It examined the sleeping habits of college students.
It is well known that a good night's sleep is important to healthy functioning the next day. That includes being able to focus attention on lectures, labs, reading and studying. The ability to focus attention is important for storing information in the memory system and performing well on quizzes, exams and term papers.
Based on these facts, it makes sense for students to schedule classes later in the morning, let's say ten or eleven AM, so that they could sleep later and feel refreshed and sharp when they awaken? Unfortunately, that is not the case for many students. Here is the problem that was uncovered in the study:
As a result of scheduling classes later in the morning, students are staying up later at night. They are actually getting less sleep because they are socializing and drinking. Some are doing this through the night.
It's a well established fact that alcohol disturbs sleep. Instead of the deeper sleep needed for memory and intellectual functioning the next day in class, students fall asleep during lectures and cannot concentrate. Ultimately, the outcome has been that grades are suffering instead of improving as you might expect from getting more morning sleep.
Alcohol on campus has been a problem for a long time. In more than a few cases, students are chugging hard alcohol. This has resulted in auto accidents, alcohol poisoning and death.
Studies do show that Middle and High School students perform better when school opens at 10AM rather than the traditional 8 o'clock starting time. Youngsters are found to be in a better mood, less likely to be truant and improve learning. However, these young adolescents live at home and are apt to have attentive parents. College students live on campus and enjoy much more freedom than at any other times in their lives. Evidently, being given the opportunity to take advantage of more sleep, they are taking advantage of the opportunity to drink more.
This is the problem. What is the solution? I want to encourage readers to discuss their ideas about how to help our students on campus avoid this major impediment to learning?
Your comments are encouraged.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD