Students' bad grades might be tied to class time

Students with circadian rhythms that are out of synch with their early class schedules might have lower grades from "social jet lag," a condition in which school time doesn't line up with alert time.

That was the finding of a new study out of the University of California Berkeley published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports. In their research, the team tracked the online activity of about 15,000 college students and sorted them into three categories - "night owls," "daytime finches" and morning larks" - based on the times they were most active outside of class.

The study found that students whose circadian rhythms were out of sync with their class schedules - like a night owl having an early class - had lower grades than their morning lark peers.

"We found that the majority of students were being jet-lagged by their class times, which correlated very strongly with decreased academic performance," co-lead author of the study, Benjamin Smarr, told the Berkeley News.

Social jetlag is also connected to obesity and excessive alcohol and tobacco use, the study said.

"Because owls are later and classes tend to be earlier, this mismatch hits owls the hardest, but we see larks and finches taking later classes and also suffering from the mismatch," Smarr said. "Different people really do have biologically diverse timing, so there isn't a one-time-fits-all solution for education."

The researchers said that night owls should structure their class schedules to better fit their biological clocks to help improve their academic standing, and that parents and teachers shouldn't reprimand them for having a later rhythm.

"Rather than admonish late students to go to bed earlier, in conflict with their biological rhythms," Smarr said, "we should work to individualize education so that learning and classes are structured to take advantage of knowing what time of day a given student will be most capable of learning."

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BOULDER, CO - SEPTEMBER 07: Boulder Valley School District director of food services Chef Ann Cooper, center top, and food service assistant Erika Sanchez, top right, serve up lunch (antibiotic-free beef hamburgers and oven baked fries) at Casey Middle School in Boulder September 07, 2017. Students also had the option of local tomato Caprese sliders, a salad bar and more healthy choices. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
BOULDER, CO - SEPTEMBER 07: Local tomato Caprese sliders available for lunch service at Casey Middle School in Boulder September 07, 2017. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Maria Sandoval, a student in the Munroe Elementary School after-school garden club chops vegetables to put in a stir fry dish she would help cook in Denver, Colorado May 9, 2012. The students learn to grow and prepare healthy meals in the school's garden club with some of the food going to the school's lunch program. Colorado has the second fastest growing childhood obesity rate in the nation says non-profit LiveWell Colorado. Groups like Livewell are working to reduce childhood obesity by supporting school gardens, especially in low income areas, to provide learning about healthy food while actually providing nourishment. Studies have shown that children are more likely to try eating fresh fruit and vegetables if they are involved in growing them. Photo taken May 9, 2012. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH EDUCATION SOCIETY)
Students in the Munroe Elementary School after-school garden club (L-R) Fatima Sandoval, Ruby Mendoza, Maria Sandoval and Naomi Ba?uelos show off plants they were going to plant in the school's garden in Denver, Colorado May 9, 2012. The students learn to grow and prepare healthy meals in the school's garden club, with some of the food going to the school's lunch program. Colorado has the second fastest growing childhood obesity rate in the nation says non-profit LiveWell Colorado. Groups like Livewell are working to reduce childhood obesity by supporting school gardens, especially in low income areas, to provide learning about healthy food while actually providing nourishment. Studies have shown that children are more likely to try eating fresh fruit and vegetables if they are involved in growing them. Photo taken May 9, 2012. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH EDUCATION SOCIETY)
Students at Rose Hill Elementary School (L-R) Destiny Huges, Alexis Reubenstein and Sami Escadjeda choose the salad bar for lunch in Commerce City, Colorado May 1, 2012 instead of hamburgers and potatoes that were offered this day. Forty-three percent of the children at Rose Hill are on track to be obese according to the school's principal and Colorado has the second fastest growing childhood obesity rate in the nation says non-profit LiveWell Colorado. Groups like Livewell are working to reduce childhood obesity by supporting schools with culinary bootcamps to teach school kitchens how to provide healthier meals to students. Photo taken May 1, 2012. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH EDUCATION SOCIETY)
Students at Rose Hill Elementary School including Yamilet Hinojos (R) and Yasmine Pinela (L) choose the salad bar for lunch in Commerce City, Colorado May 1, 2012 instead of hamburgers and potatoes that was offered this day. Forty-three percent of the children at Rose Hill are on track to be obese according to the school's principal and Colorado has the second fastest growing childhood obesity rate in the nation says non-profit LiveWell Colorado. Groups like Livewell are working to reduce childhood obesity by supporting schools with culinary bootcamps to teach school kitchens how to provide healthier meals to students. Photo taken May 1, 2012. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH EDUCATION SOCIETY)
Ruby Mendoza, a student in the Munroe Elementary School gardening club, enjoys a meal she helped prepare by growing and chopping vegetables at the school in Denver, Colorado May 9, 2012. The students learn to grow and prepare healthy meals in the school's garden club with some of the food going to the school's lunch program. Colorado has the second fastest growing childhood obesity rate in the nation says non-profit LiveWell Colorado. Groups like Livewell are working to reduce childhood obesity by supporting school gardens, especially in low income areas, to provide learning about healthy food while actually providing nourishment. Studies have shown that children are more likely to try eating fresh fruit and vegetables if they are involved in growing them. Photo taken May 9, 2012. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH EDUCATION SOCIETY)
A student keys in her payment code as she orders a healthy lunch at Marston Middle School in San Diego, California March 7, 2011. San Diego's Healthy Works Project received the countries largest grant, 16 million dollars, from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 to help combat obesity. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: EDUCATION SOCIETY HEALTH FOOD)
Students get their lunch from a salad bar at the school cafeteria as some of more than 8,000lbs of locally grown broccoli from a partnership between Farm to School and Healthy School Meals is served at Marston Middle School in San Diego, California March 7, 2011. San Diego's Healthy Works Project received the countries largest grant, 16 million dollars, from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 for obesity prevention. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: EDUCATION SOCIETY HEALTH FOOD BUSINESS)
Students sit down to eat a healthy lunch at Marston Middle School in San Diego, California, March 7, 2011. San Diego's Healthy Works Project received the countries largest grant, 16 million dollars, from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 to help combat obesity. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: EDUCATION SOCIETY HEALTH FOOD)
Meals are prepared in the kitchen of Revolution Foods in Los Angeles August 19, 2009. Privately held Revolution Foods, which delivers health-focused, made-from-scratch lunches, breakfast and snacks to schools around California, got $6.5 million to expand into Colorado and Washington, D.C., bringing its total venture funding thus far to $17 million. Picture taken August 19, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES POLITICS HEALTH FOOD BUSINESS)
Fresh vegetables are chopped in the kitchen of Revolution Foods in Los Angeles August 19, 2009. Privately held Revolution Foods, which delivers health-focused, made-from-scratch lunches, breakfast and snacks to schools around California, got $6.5 million to expand into Colorado and Washington, D.C., bringing its total venture funding thus far to $17 million. Picture taken August 19, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES POLITICS HEALTH BUSINESS FOOD)
Chef Bertil Diaz cooks rice in the kitchen of Revolution Foods in Los Angeles August 19, 2009. Privately held Revolution Foods, which delivers health-focused, made-from-scratch lunches, breakfast and snacks to schools around California, got $6.5 million to expand into Colorado and Washington, D.C., bringing its total venture funding thus far to $17 million. Picture taken August 19, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES POLITICS HEALTH BUSINESS FOOD)
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