We’ve all been there. We’ve all seen someone else do it. Just this last Wednesday, I witnessed 3 people do it and it’s only the second week of school. That’s right, I’m talking about people falling asleep in their 8 a.m. classes. Personally, I love my 8 o’ clocks this year (Shoutout Dr. Little), but even I’ve felt a mental haze at the beginning of any 8 a.m. classes I’ve ever taken. However, this is not the fault of the professors’ teaching style or content. Most would accept this as normal or just a part of being a college student, but does it have to be this way?
A study from April 2017, performed at the University of Nevada, came to some interesting conclusions regarding the optimal class start time for undergraduate college students. The study involved 190 first and second year students who participated in a survey based examination in which they self reported their performance at different times of the day and a neuroscience based theoretical model which “synthesized research in sleep, circadian neuroscience, sleep deprivation’s impact on cognition, and practical considerations to create a generalized solution to determine the best learning hours.”
The study found that students reach a point around 9 a.m. where their learning performance could be considered neutral before peaking around 11 a.m. for an extended period.
There’s not much professors can do to engage students during 8 a.m. classes to fix students sleeping if, as this study suggests, students aren’t neurologically wired to function optimally this early in the day. While there is no way to prove this, I’d feel confident positing that the difference between an 8 a.m. and an 11 a.m. class could be worth a letter grade for many students.
When students thrive, the university thrives. Who would lose from the university adopting a later start time to their earliest classes if it meant a higher overall GPA for students enrolled? Even starting at 9 a.m. would be an improvement over the current format most, if not all, universities have.