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Early to bed, early to rise! Sleep habits and academic performance in college students



Prior studies have placed emphasis on the need for adequate total sleep time for student performance. We sought to investigate the relative importance of total sleep time compared to the timing of sleep and wakefulness for academic performance.


We performed a questionnaire-based survey of college students in October 2007. The questionnaire gathered detailed information on sleep habits including naps, reasons for missing sleep, academic performance, study habits, time spent working outside of school, and stimulant use.


Compared to those with the lowest academic performance, students with the highest performance had significantly earlier bedtimes (p = 0.05) and wake times (p = 0.008). Napping tended to be more common among high performers (p = 0.07). Of importance, there were no significant differences in total sleep time with or without naps, weekend sleep habits, study time, gender, race, reasons for staying up at night, nor in use of caffeinated beverages, over-the-counter stimulant pills, or use of prescription stimulants.


Timing of sleep and wakefulness correlated more closely with academic performance than total sleep time and other relevant factors. These findings have important implications for programs intended to improve academic performance by targeting sleep habits of students.

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The authors wish to thank Professor Sharon Ward and Dr. Aram Hessami for their expertise in helping develop the questionnaire. We also thank Dr. Shweta Sen for her administrative guidance. We thank all three professors for their invaluable contribution with the distribution and collection of the questionnaire survey.

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Correspondence to Arn H. Eliasson.

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The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and should not to be construed as official or as reflecting the policies of either the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.

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Eliasson, A.H., Lettieri, C.J. & Eliasson, A.H. Early to bed, early to rise! Sleep habits and academic performance in college students. Sleep Breath 14, 71–75 (2010).

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  • Academic performance
  • Total sleep time
  • Bed time
  • Wake time
  • Circadian rhythm