Losing the ‘Summertime Snooze’ Doesn’t Have to Give Students the Blues

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    (iStockphoto)
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    Michael Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor's Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory
July 3, 2018

Sleep expert offers back-to-school tips to ease the transition back to the classroom

Media Contact: Terry Goodrich, 254-710-3321
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WACO, Texas (July 3, 2018) — Students soon must gear up for back-to-school hours, leaving behind the more relaxed summer schedules.

That won’t come easy for many — especially for adolescents, whose natural sleep pattern tends to be late to bed and late to rise, says Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor University’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience in the College of Arts & Sciences.

But “what you find in the research is that the more variable your schedule, the worse your cognition is going to be,” he said.

Scullin offered tips to help switch to different hours, the better to improve cognition — and grades.

1. Get an early start on switching back to a normal schedule. “If you go to bed after midnight on Sunday before class starts, it’s going to be a tough Monday,” Scullin said. “It’s very hard to shift your schedule overnight, so parents need to start imposing that a few days early.”

2. Extinguish the bright lights. The light from phones, tablets, laptops and television disrupts the sleep cycle, so if possible, shut down early – or even consider a device-free zone at night. To block exterior light, try blackout curtains.

3. Opt for quiet. Earplugs are a good, inexpensive solution to muffle everything from planes taking off to a roommate with a loud snore (but not your wake-up alarm).

4. Consider banishing that beloved pet from the bed. Pets can be comforting — but the pup who twitches while chasing dream rabbits, or the cat hogging the bed aren’t conducive to their humans’ sound sleep. “You can’t just kick them out and expect them to not be upset, but you can get them a bed of their own and be firm about it,” Scullin said.

5. Cut out the caffeine and energy drinks by late afternoon and don’t eat a big meal late. “Research shows that food high in saturated fats interferes with quality sleep. Foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fats are better.”

6. Write away your worries. “Anxiety can interfere with good sleep,” said Scullin, who has researched the subject. In a recent study, he found that taking five minutes to write a “to-do” list at bedtime helped student participants fall asleep about 10 minutes faster than others who used that time to chronicle completed activities. A possible explanation is that writing the to-do list may help the brain “offload” worries and ease into sleep, Scullin said.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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