Poor Academic Performance Linked to Irregular Sleeping Patterns

Poor Academic Performance Linked to Irregular Sleeping Patterns

New research has been done by Brigham and Women’s Hospital that shows the detrimental effect of sleep irregularity. 61 Harvard undergrads kept sleep diaries for a month. Those whose sleep cycles were regular (i.e. they went to bed and woke up at approximately the same time everyday) had a higher GPA. They also got more sunlight during the day, and less at night, which probably helped with their sleep cycles as well.

Those with irregular cycles still had the same AMOUNT of sleep, but at irregular hours.

Sleep cycles are run on a circadian clock that is slow to adjust to changes, and is sensitive to light exposure. Some effects of the irregular sleepers include that they got varying amounts of light throughout the day and night. Also, their melatonin was released 2.6 hours later in their sleep cycle. This shows damage to their circadian rhythm. If they had a 9 am class, it felt to them like 6 am. This shows that sleep irregularity can be just as important as amount of sleep.

The research was done using a new metric called Sleep Regularity Index (SRI) which examines sleep distribution throughout the day, and sleep duration.

Key Points:

  • 161 full time undergraduate students from Harvard were used as a sample size, indicating a lack of broad survey panel.
  • 2Irregular changes from sleep to wakefulness correlated to the grade point averages for students due to a delayed onset of melatonin production.
  • 3People with irregular sleep patterns had biological clocks that were 3+ hours different, and also had almost a 3 hour delayed onset of melatonin production.


Researchers noted that students who had regular sleep patterns were more likely to have better grades; however, there were no significant differences in duration between students who were regular sleepers and those who had irregular patterns.
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