An NIH-funded study reveals that teenagers with inconsistent sleep schedules are more likely to experience academic difficulties and increased school-related behavioral problems.

Summary: A study funded by the NIH and published in Sleep analyzed nearly 800 adolescents, finding a link between irregular sleep patterns and poorer academic performance. Using wrist accelerometers to monitor sleep, researchers discovered that teens with variable bedtimes were more likely to score lower grades and face behavioral issues in school, such as suspensions or expulsions. The study suggests that interventions promoting regular sleep schedules could enhance students’ academic success, highlighting the negative impact of late bedtimes and inconsistent sleep hours on learning and behavior, amidst the challenge of early school start times.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Adolescents with more variable bedtimes were more likely to receive grades of D or lower. 
  • Teens who varied the time they went to bed each night were more likely to be suspended or expelled within the last two years.

Irregular sleep and late bedtimes are linked to worse grades and more school-related behavioral problems among teens, suggests a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

The authors stated that interventions to promote regular sleep schedules may boost adolescents’ academic performance.

The study appears in Sleep. Researchers analyzed data from nearly 800 adolescents participating in a larger study. Participants provided information on grades and school-related behavioral issues. They also wore a wrist accelerometer for a week so that study staff could estimate their sleep patterns.

Participants with more variable bedtimes had a greater chance of receiving a D or lower during the last grading period, compared to those with more consistent bedtimes. Adolescents who went to bed later, got up later, or varied the number of hours they slept per night had fewer classes in which they received an A.

Adolescents were more likely to be suspended or expelled in the last two years if they got up later, varied the number of hours they slept each night, or if they varied the time they went to bed each night.

The authors theorized that delayed bedtimes could result in late school arrivals, which could affect learning and behavior. In addition, many adolescents are biologically inclined to later hours, which conflict with early school start times.

Funding was provided by NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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