College students should sleep in more to learn more – study

Starting the day early is more convenient for older adults, not college students. Source: Shutterstock

To learn the most, first and second-year college students should be going to classes that start after 11am as this is when they will have maximum cognitive performance, new research has found.

Students’ learning process starts improving after 11am and peaks in the afternoon and evening, according to researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno and UK’s Open University.

“Adolescents have a much later body clock,” Mariah Evans, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and a co-author of the study, told the Wall Street Journal.

“It’s hard for adults to understand the degree to which ‘teen shift’ is real.”

The new study comprised of a survey of 90 students at their schools, as well as a separate review of research in circadian neuroscience and how the lack of sleep influences cognition.

It suggests to colleges to start their classes closer to noon – the “optimal” time for this age group.

The study, which was published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience late last month, builds on the growing body of research that shows it is not suitable for young adults to start the school day too early so that they are able to get more sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends classes to start after 8.30am as research shows this improves their physical and mental health.

Unfortunately, schools and colleges now generally start their days early, which Evans says is more convenient for older adults, not students.

“There are larks as well as night owls. The world is much better set up for the larks.”

Joe Amato, a student at Georgetown University is the latter. The 20-year old sophomore says he goes to bed around 1.30am and would sleep in until noon, if he could.

“It’s definitely difficult to get to an early class and make sure you’re paying full attention because you stay up so late to do your other work,” Amato said.

On the other hand, students such as Braden Fineberg at the University of Pennsylvania is struggling with his evening class this term, that runs from 4.30 to 7.30 p.m.

The sophomore engineering student says he is most productive before noon.

“Your attention is just gone,” Fineberg said. “You’re hungry. You’re tired. It’s just brutal.”

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