Burning the midnight oil may work well for business professionals or lawyers, but a new study suggests it can be disastrous for students. High School students who stay up late see their test scores lag behind their more well-rested peers.
The study, performed by researchers at Cal Berkley and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, examined survey data from over 2,700 adolescents in the United States. 30 percent of junior high and high school students admitted to bedtimes past 11:30 pm during the school year. Following the data, this subset of night owls saw their grades slip when compared to other students. Additionally, these sleep-deprived adolescents also reported a higher rate of emotional problems.
Berkley psychologist and senior author Allison Harvey underscores the importance of this study. “This very important study adds to the already clear evidence that youth who are night owls are at greater risk for adverse outcome. Helping teens go to bed earlier may be an important pathway for reducing risk.”
The silver lining, as Harvey indicates, is the study illuminates an easy solution to some teens’ problems: get more sleep. Teens facing emotional problems or depression could attempt to better regulate their sleep cycles before turning to more drastic measures for relief. Compared to doctors’ bills and medications, going to bed earlier can be a simpler, more cost-effective solution.
As for the summer months, the research indicates sleep—or rather the lack thereof—has little effect on a student’s grades once school is back in session. The study does caution, however, that late nights, even in the summer, still correlate to emotional problems in teens.
Doctors recommend 9 hours of sleep every night for adolescents. A parent would be smart to turn off their student’s smart phones and laptops when the sun goes down. Now more than ever, a good night’s sleep can make all the difference.