Early Bird Gets the Better Grades


| 4 Comments
As I was sitting on the Blue Loop bus, I noticed a sign sitting above the row across from me saying that studies show, students who get up earlier on a regular basis get better grades. I don't know about you, but this was a surprise to me so I decided to look further into it. I guess I just assumed that getting lots of sleep by not waking up until the late afternoon was far more beneficial than me listening to my 8 AM lectures while half asleep.

I found a couple studies that seemed to prove this true, and it actually does make sense. One study done at a Texas university compared the correlation between GPA and sleep habits. They used 824 undergrads that were taking psychology classes and gave them a questionnaire asking basic questions such as, "When do you go to sleep and when do you wake up?" along with "what time of day are you most productive?" They also asked students if they had no time constraints (such as classes they have to wake up for in the morning) what time would they get up? This was to show whether they are considered to be a morning person or evening person. The study also tried to eliminate some possible third-variable causes for correlation between GPA and sleeping habits by looking into other factors that could show a student's GPA is estimated to be higher, such as the SATs and other standardized testing. Dr. Daniel J. Taylor, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Texas in Denton, says that they found these early risers had a GPA that was an average of an entire point higher than "night owls." He says, "the more of a morning person you are, the more likely you are to have a higher GPA." Early birds had an average GPA of 3.5 compared to late risers' 2.5. I looked into two other not-so-detailed studies that appeared to find the same results. One study done by a biology professor named Christoph Randler at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany used 367 college students to reach a similar conclusion. Another study was done by psychology professors Serge Onyper and Pamela Thacher at the St. Lawrence University. All three studies claim to have discovered the same correlation.  

There are a few sensible reasons as to why these researches believe their findings to be true. Dr. Taylor from the University of North Texas study says that with early classes you are more likely to get to bed early and less likely to stay out late partying and drinking or "engage in other activities that can have negative influence on academic performance." Christoph Randler from the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany says that those who get up early have a better sense of what they need to get done in their day and also more time to do it. This enables them to accomplish things earlier on and typically be less stressed as the day comes to an end. Overall, he says early risers are more productive with their day which in turn makes them happier and healthier. The researches from St. Lawrence University explain similar points to Dr. Taylor in that although students who don't have early classes typically get more sleep, they are also more likely to go out at night and consume more alcohol and other substances. Thacher states, "those who elect earlier classes may be more motivated to find ways to offset the early start time by making healthier choices about their daily living."

I'm happy to know that my morning classes have in fact been beneficial in setting my internal clock to wake me up at 7 AM every morning, even if I don't have class until the afternoon. I do notice that I can always find something to do with my time and feel far more productive waking up early than I do sleeping in late, feeling groggy for most of the day and realizing at noon how much I need to get done before the day is over. While these studies seem pretty accurate, I do believe there could be third variables causing the correlation between the time you wake up and grades. Maybe those who try harder in school are just naturally less lazy (so they prefer to sleep less) and like to be more productive with their day. Maybe those who do not enjoy going out and partying - things that generally take away from school work - got stuck with all the morning classes because they had later scheduling and were forced to take the classes available to them. Or maybe early risers have easier classes (which would make it easier to get a higher GPA) than those who get up later because they know how tired they would be in the morning and how difficult it is to concentrate. Because these are fairly large studies, third variables are less likely to be the cause but still, things to consider. Also, does this mean if I'm able to wake up at 5 in the morning every morning and last through the day, I have an even higher chance of succeeding in school when compared to someone who wakes up at 7 every morning? Maybe some of you have ideas of your own. 
early bird night owl.jpg
http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20080609/early-birds-get-better-grades
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/08/earlier-classes-lead-to-b_n_954353.html
http://dailycollegian.com/2012/11/02/early-bird-is-the-word/

4 Comments

I have frequently heard that waking up early is very beneficial to daily activities and in general and I'm glad to see that these studies display exactly that. Although I have become quite the "evening person" myself, I do agree that waking up early is beneficial to grades. Not mainly because of the act of waking up early itself, however, sleeping early and not engaging in activities that negatively affect physical and mental health. One common activity that keeps may people up at night and is very hurtful is technology. Whether it be on the laptop, phone, or just watching T.V. This study states that most Americans experience "drowsiness" and feel sluggish at work on normal weekdays and believe that it is due to the lack of sleep. "Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour-making it more difficult to fall asleep," says Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital

I can definitely attest to the fact that getting up early, leads to a more productive day. For as long as I can remember, I've always been a morning person but in college I found that it is not the norm. The peacefulness and prospective of having the whole day at your fingertips always made appreciate getting up before everyone else in my apartment. I've found that I'm more likely to utilize my time and get things accomplished before I get distracted as the day progresses. This article delves a little deeper into why early risers are more successful and one of the things that I found especially interesting is that they equated getting up early to having more will power, therefore you are more likely to prioritize your work and get things done accordingly. Check it out here, http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/226910

I have frequently heard that waking up early is very beneficial to daily activities and in general and I'm glad to see that these studies display exactly that. Although I have become quite the "evening person" myself, I do agree that waking up early is beneficial to grades. Not mainly because of the act of waking up early itself, however, sleeping early and not engaging in activities that negatively affect physical and mental health. One common activity that keeps may people up at night and is very hurtful is technology. Whether it be on the laptop, phone, or just watching T.V. This study states that most Americans experience "drowsiness" and feel sluggish at work on normal weekdays and believe that it is due to the lack of sleep. "Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour-making it more difficult to fall asleep," says Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital

I really liked all of the potential third variables you listed because there were some I never have even thought of before that make sense. Especially your point about if someone woke up at 5 every morning vs someone woke up at 7. Another thing I was thinking, I wonder if anyone ever compared if people do more productive work in the morning or at night, comparing the lifestyles of waking up early to get things done, and being ok with going to bed on time because you know you are going to wake up early again the next day vs. sleeping in till the last minute and staying up late at night to finish all your homework. The latter is what most college students get into the habit of doing, but what if there is a chance you would be more productive in the morning because you are waking up vs. at night you are winding down to sleep. I couldn't find a study that explored this, but on this forum most people guessed it is better to work late at night.

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=596872

If anyone finds a study covering this hypothesis, let me know, I'm very curious now after thinking about it.

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