We’ve all been there — you make sure you get an early night for once, only to wake up groggy and unfocused at work. After trying so hard to get to bed on time, you’re rewarded with feeling even worse.
As it turns out, regularly going to bed and waking up at the same time might be the only way to counteract the sleepiness and increase your overall workplace or academic performance.
A new small study from the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Brigham and Women’s Hospital looked at the behaviours of 61 full-time students at Harvard College, and found that irregular sleeping patterns was linked with a lower grade point average (GPA.) The results were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The students were asked to keep sleep diaries for 30 days. The researchers came up with a sleep regularity index, or SRI, to analyse how regular their sleep was by measuring sleep duration and distribution of sleep across the day. This was then compared to their overall academic performance over one semester.
Students who had more regular sleeping patterns had better grades, but this wasn’t because they were sleeping more. The researchers found that there was no significant difference in the average sleep duration between the regular and irregular sleepers. However, the team did find that the irregular sleepers had shifted their circadian rhythms — or biological clocks.
They worked this out by measuring the times melatonin was released, which is the hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain to prepare our body for sleep. On average, melatonin was released 2.6 hours later in students with the most irregular sleeping habits compared to those who woke up and went to sleep at more or less the same time every day.
“For the students whose sleep and wake times were inconsistent, classes and exams that were scheduled for 9 a.m. were therefore occurring at 6 a.m. according to their body clock, at a time when performance is impaired,” said Charles A. Czeisler, the Director of the Sleep Health Institute and senior author on the paper, in a statement.
“Ironically, they didn’t save any time because in the end they slept just as much as those on a more regular schedule.”
The lead author of the paper, a biologist named Andrew J. K. Phillips, concluded that going to sleep and waking up at approximately the same time is just as important as the number of hours you sleep. This is why we get so groggy when the clocks go forwards and we lose an hour of sleep.
Our body clocks are also particularly sensitive to light. Sunlight is something called a zeitgeber, which is any external or environmental cue that helps synchronise your biological rhythm to the 24 hour cycle. We tend to release melatonin when it starts getting dark, but nowadays we have a habit of checking our phones and playing on our laptops at night, which can get our bodies out of sync.
If you want to try and regulate your sleeping pattern, here are some things you can do:
- For a few days, try and get bright sunlight early in the morning at the time you want to wake up.
- Avoid light in the evening when it’s dark — including laptop, tablet, and phone screens.
- Get some exercise in the morning.
- There are melatonin pills available, but the research on whether they work or not is shaky.
- Don’t try and make up for lost time elsewhere — the best thing you can do is stick to a regular schedule whenever possible.
- Resist the temptation to hit snooze on your alarm.
NOW WATCH: Tony Robbins explains Stephen Curry’s incredible 100% free throw record in the first 3 games of the series
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.