It seems that most college students either sleep all day or never sleep at all. There are the students who pick studying over sleep: they will pull all-nighters during the semester and they will camp out in O’Neil all night long during finals week. For them, sleep is not an option.
There are also the students who will always make time for sleeping. They take sporadic naps in between classes, and often stay in bed, hitting the snooze button until the last possible minute before classes. They may roll out of bed right before an exam, convinced that they’ll perform better with as much sleep as possible.
Then, of course, there are those students who exist somewhere in between both extremes, trying to strike a balance between getting enough sleep and studying done. These are all choices. Students have the choice of whether they will study or sleep during the week and whether they will stay up past three a.m. on the weekends.
That being said, what is not a choice is the kind of sleeper one naturally is. Traditionally, there have always been the “night owls,” who tend to sleep in late and are the most alert at night, and the “early birds,” who tend to go to sleep early and function best in the mornings. These are the two basic chronotypes regarding preferred sleep schedules, and scientists have done studies to prove that people do in fact tend to fall into one category or the other.
However, studies conducted by Russian scientists have suggested that there may be more than two chronotypes pertaining to types of sleep schedules. The scientists are claiming that there are actually four: in addition to the larks and the owls, there are also people who feel alert and energetic during both the morning and the evening, as well as people who feel fatigued and sluggish all day.
The study focused on 130 people who agreed to stay awake for 24 hours. The subjects then filled out questionnaires asking about their level of alertness, their normal sleep patterns and how well they functioned throughout the previous week.
The results indicated that among the test group were 29 larks, who were more alert and functional at nine a.m. versus nine p.m., and 44 owls, who were the opposite. On average, the larks went to bed two hours earlier than the owls.
In addition to these two types of people within the larger group, there were 25 people who were described as “highly energetic,” and reported feeling alert during both the morning and the evening. A fourth group of 32 subjects were described as being “lethargic” during both time periods. Both of these groups went to bed and woke up somewhere between the times the owls and larks did. Overall, the energetic group slept about a half-hour less than all other groups, averaging about 7.5 hours of sleep each night.
Managing an intense workload in addition to balancing extracurricular activities and a social life can really take its toll on students, leading to lack of sleep and heightened levels of stress. To counter this, try paying attention to the kind of sleeper you are. Students who are sensitive towards their natural sleep habits and try to plan their studying around times that inherently work best for them may very well find that they will be more productive and test better, while still having time to sleep.