New study - kids who're night owls perform worse at school

Teenagers who go to bed late during the school year are more prone to academic and emotional difficulties in the long run, compared to teens who’re in bed earlier, according to a new study from University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley).

Finding from night owl study

University researchers analysed data from a nationally representative sample of 2,700 U.S. adolescents from year 6 to year 12 of whom 30% reported bedtimes later than 11:30pm on school days and 1:30am in the summer.

By the time they graduated from high school, the school-year night owls had a lower academic performance overall, and were more vulnerable to emotional problems than teens with earlier bedtimes, according to the study published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The results present a compelling argument of ensuring children get 9 hours of sleep from year 6 through to year 12, in the face of intense academic, social and technological pressures.

"Academic pressures, busy after-school schedules, and the desire to finally have free time at the end of the day to connect with friends on the phone or online make this problem even more challenging," said Lauren Asarnow, lead author of the study.

Why are kids night owls?

Surveys show that many teenagers do not get the recommended nine hours sleep a night, and report having trouble staying awake at school. The human circadian rhythm, which regulates physiological and metabolic functions, typically shifts to a later sleep cycle at the onset of puberty. UC Berkeley researchers theorise that an "evening circadian preference" in adolescence is a mix of biological factors, as well as parental monitoring, academic and social pressures and the use of electronic gadgetry.

For example, bright lights associated with laptops, smartphones and other electronic devices have been found to suppress melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle.

What can you do as a parent to help?

This study adds to the already clear evidence that youth who are night owls are at greater risk for adverse academic and behavioural outcomes. Helping your teen go to bed earlier is an important pathway for reducing this risk.

On a positive note however, study findings underscore how a healthy sleep cycle promotes the academic and emotional success of adolescents. And the good news is that sleep behaviour is highly modifiable with the right support.

SleepShack an online diagnostic and treatment program managed by Australian Sleep Doctors, is designed to reset the biological clocks of your child if they have trouble going to sleep. This re-set will significantly help your child go to sleep earlier and thereby maximise their academic and behavioural outcomes.

Study & findings sourced from "Medical News Today"
Ginni Seton, Manager SleepShack