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Poor Grades Linked To Class Schedules That Do Not Match Students' Biological Clocks

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Findings of a new study have suggested that syncing class schedules to students' natural body clock could have a positive effect on their academic performance.

Out Of Sync Circadian Rhythm And Class Times

In a study published in the journal Scientific reports on March 29, researchers sorted about 15,000 college students into "night owls," "daytime finches," and "morning larks" based on their activities on days when there are no classes.

The researchers also compared the students' class schedules to their academic performance. They found that the students whose circadian rhythms were not in sync with the class times, such as night owls attending early classes, tend to have lower grades.

They said that this is due to the so-called social jet lag when there is a discrepancy between when a person's body needs to sleep and when he actually goes to sleep. It occurs when a person goes to bed and wakes up later on weekends than during the week.

Night Owls Most Vulnerable To Effects Of Social Jet Lag

The researchers found that students of all categories have class-induced jet lag but the night owls were particularly vulnerable to the effects. Many night owls were not capable of performing optimally at any time of the day because of chronic jet lag.

"Because owls are later and classes tend to be earlier, this mismatch hits owls the hardest," said study researcher Benjamin Smarr, from the University of California at Berkeley. 

Study researcher Aaron Schirmer, from Northeastern Illinois University, said that the findings of the study suggest that if a student can structure a consistent schedule wherein class days resemble non-class days, he or she may have improved chances for academic success.

"The benefits to individuals and societies stemming from enhancing education by enabling individuals to take advantage of their own biological rhythms are surely substantial," the researchers wrote in their study.

Other Effects Of Social Jet Lag

Earlier studies have already shown other unwanted effects of jet lag. In a 2016 study, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine found that jet lag may result in obesity and liver diseases.

Social jet lag has also been associated with increased cardiometabolic risks that can contribute to cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.

Sleep disruption and sleep deprivation, which are closely linked to jet lags, are also known to cause mood swings and depression.  Drowsiness due to lack of quality sleep can also increase the risk of car accidents and injuries. 

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