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Night Owls' Poor Sleep Habits Can Hurt Grades
Date:6/16/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 16 (HealthDay News) -- Students who are night owls have worse grades in high school and the beginning years of college, research has shown.

However, a new study suggests that, as they adopt more traditional sleeping schedules, a change occurs.

"Their grades actually evened out," said study author Jennifer Peszka, an associate professor of psychology at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. By the end of the senior year of college, the grades of the night owls she had followed since high school improved and were not much different than those of the morning people.

Peszka is due to present this latest finding Wednesday at SLEEP 2011, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, in Minneapolis.

Peszka and her colleagues first evaluated 89 students upon high school graduation. Before they entered college, the students answered questions about their sleep habits and gave the researchers access to their academic records.

Of those 89 students, 34 completed the same questionnaire after their freshman year in college, and 43 of them finished it after their senior year in college.

From the first batch of questions, the researchers classified the students as morning larks, night owls or regular robins. Larks are most alert in the morning; night owls do their best at night.

Regular robins are alert at 8 to 9 a.m., but tired by 10 p.m. or so, Peszka said.

The night owls slept about 41 minutes a night less than the others, the investigators found. They had other bad sleep habits, such as drinking caffeinated drinks close to bedtime and not keeping their bedtime and wake time constant during the week.

At the end of the freshman year, the night owls' grade point average (GPA) was 2.84, just below a B average, the study authors reported.

The larks and regular robins had an average GPA of 3.18, Peszka noted.

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