A version of this article originally appeared on Wonkhe, a blog and think tank focused on Higher Education.
How do sleep patterns impact students’ academic studies? A University Registrar recently looked into this topic when he began to study the phenomenon known as “social jet lag”. "
[Researchers] Schirmer and Smarr analyzed two years of Northeastern student data and determined that a majority of students experience a misalignment between their natural internal rhythms and their school environment, known as social jet lag (SJL). In an academic setting, that could be a student whose internal timing is that of a night owl, but who has to wake up early twice a week for an 8 a.m. class. The study—the largest survey of real-world student SJL ever published—concluded that more SJL correlated to poorer academic performance (which, unfortunately, appears relevant for most students)."
The recommendations here, notes the Registrar, are that universities should consider students’ sleeping and waking cycles when scheduling classes, and that students should also look at their own patterns of activity when choosing classes as well.
“Students need to be cognizant of how they partition their time,” says Schirmer. “It’s really important for students to think about the timing of their activities to try to optimize their educational efforts. If your only time to study is midnight to 2 a.m., there might be some academic costs.”
Notes Smarr: “Staying up late in college doesn’t make you a party animal or lazy student. Circadian clocks get later in puberty, and so people in their teens and early 20s tend to be more owlish. What we see here is that in a large, diverse population, when class times don’t accommodate that lateness, the quality of the education suffers, and this impacts the majority of students at the university.”
Given that most students are ‘owlish’, the suggestion is that classes should, on the whole, start and conclude later in the day. This would generally improve the overall quality of education as fewer students would suffer from social jet lag.
Another way to enhance the sleep cycle for students is with Beantown Bedding, a range of disposable bed sheets. Beantown Bedding's “laundry-Free linens®” are biodegradable and compostable and are meant to be thrown away after just a few weeks.
Kirsten Lambert and Joan Ripple got the idea for throwaway bedding when they sent their children off to college and learned they rarely took the time to wash their sheets. Beds are like super-sized petri dishes for fungi, bacteria, pollen, soil, dust, and all sorts of detritus from the human body, according to Philip Tierno, a microbiologist and pathologist at the New York University School of Medicine. While it's recommended that you wash your sheets about once a week, that’s more than a tad unlikely for today’s busy students, so simply throwing them out looks like an interesting option. Beantown Bedding’s linens are made out of Tencel, a fiber made from organic compounds found in eucalyptus, which is soft, breathable, and less prone to wrinkles than cotton... 👍