College students might stay up late or have an erratic sleep schedule for a variety of reasons.

A recent study looked at the impact of sleep pattern on grades.

Who was studied? (1,2)

  • 61 undergraduate students at Harvard college
  • They were asked to keep a sleep diary for 30 days.

What did the investigators find? (1,2)

Compared to peers, students reporting irregular patterns of sleep and wakefulness had:

  • Lower grade point averages.
  • Delays in the times people went to bed and woke up compared to more normal sleep/wake times.
  • Upto 3 hour delay in melatonin (sleep related hormone) release compared to students with regularly scheduled sleep and wakefulness pattern.

What are some caveats?

  • Poor sleep can impact almost every aspect of health and many parts of brain functioning, including learning, remembering, mood, energy level, decision making, etc.
  • This is a small study and does not prove cause-and-effect (2).
  • Students with erratic sleep schedules ended up sleeping the same number of hours as those with a regular sleep schedule. (1,2).
  • Study participants might have an erratic sleep schedule for a variety of reasons.

What are some ways of improving sleep?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests the following ways to improve sleep (3):

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
  • Plan to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.
  • If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
  • Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
  • Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings.
  • Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime.
  • Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.

Anything else?

  • Some people may need to eliminate caffeine or alcohol completely.
  • If you have to use electronics in the evenings, consider BLUEBLOCKERS.

Consider seeking professional help:

OSU Counseling and Consultation Service

OSU Wilce Student health center

How is your sleep? How are your grades?

By R. Ryan Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.


  2. Phillips AJK, Clerx WM, O’Brien CS, et al. Irregular sleep/wake patterns are associated with poorer academic performance and delayed circadian and sleep/wake timing. Scientific Reports. 2017;7:3216. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-03171-4.


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Posted by R. Ryan Patel DO, FAPA OSU CCS Psychiatrist at 1:23pmPosted in Academic PerformanceAlcoholBrain HealthSleep Tagged academic successbrain changessleep better

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