Most adolescents exhibit very late chronotypes and attend school early in the morning, a misalignment that can affect their health and psychological well-being. Here we examine how the interaction between the chronotype and school timing of an individual influences academic performance, studying a unique sample of 753 Argentinian students who were randomly assigned to start school in the morning (07:45), afternoon (12:40) or evening (17:20). Although chronotypes tend to align partially with class time, this effect is insufficient to fully account for the differences with school start time. We show that (1) for morning-attending students, early chronotypes perform better than late chronotypes in all school subjects, an effect that is largest for maths; (2) this effect vanishes for students who attend school in the afternoon; and (3) late chronotypes benefit from evening classes. Together, these results demonstrate that academic performance is improved when school times are better aligned with the biological rhythms of adolescents.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.67 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on request.
Roenneberg, T., Kumar, C. J. & Merrow, M. The human circadian clock entrains to sun time. Curr. Biol. 17, R44–R45 (2007).
Wittmann, M., Dinich, J., Merrow, M. & Roenneberg, T. Social jetlag: misalignment of biological and social time. Chronobiol. Int. 23, 497–509 (2006).
Roenneberg, T. Having trouble typing? What on earth is chronotype? J. Biol. Rhythms 30, 487–491 (2015).
Adan, A. et al. Circadian typology: a comprehensive review. Chronobiol. Int. 29, 1153–1175 (2012).
Roenneberg, T., Pilz, L., Zerbini, G. & Winnebeck, E. Chronotype and social jetlag—a (self-) critical review. Biology 8, 54 (2019).
Casiraghi, L. P. et al. Human period-3 gene involvement in diurnal preference among argentinean bipolar disorders patients. Sleep Sci. 3, 22–26 (2010).
Patke, A. et al. Mutation of the human circadian clock gene CRY1 in familial delayed sleep phase disorder. Cell 169, 203–215 (2017).
Hirano, A. et al. A cryptochrome 2 mutation yields advanced sleep phase in humans. eLife 5, e16695 (2016).
Wright, K. P. Jr. et al. Entrainment of the human circadian clock to the natural light-dark cycle. Curr. Biol. 23, 1554–1558 (2013).
Stothard, E. R. et al. Circadian entrainment to the natural light-dark cycle across seasons and the weekend. Curr. Biol. 27, 508–513 (2017).
Roenneberg, T., Hut, R., Daan, S. & Merrow, M. Entrainment concepts revisited. J. Biol. Rhythms 25, 329–339 (2010).
Roenneberg, T. et al. A marker for the end of adolescence. Curr. Biol. 14, R1038–R1039 (2004).
Fischer, D., Lombardi, D. A., Marucci-Wellman, H. & Roenneberg, T. Chronotypes in the US—influence of age and sex. PLoS One 12, e0178782 (2017).
Randler, C., Fassl, C. & Kalb, N. From lark to owl: developmental changes in morningness-eveningness from new-borns to early adulthood. Sci. Rep. 7, 45874 (2017).
Skeldon, A. C., Phillips, A. J. & Dijk, D. J. The effects of self-selected light-dark cycles and social constraints on human sleep and circadian timing: a modeling approach. Sci. Rep. 7, 45158 (2017).
Kantermann, T., Sung, H. & Burgess, H. J. Comparing the morningness-eveningness questionnaire and munich chronotype questionnaire to the dim light melatonin onset. J. Biol. Rhythms 30, 449–453 (2015).
Baehr, E. K., Revelle, W. & Eastman, C. I. Individual differences in the phase and amplitude of the human circadian temperature rhythm: with an emphasis on morningness-eveningness. J. Sleep Res. 9, 117–127 (2000).
Duffy, J. F., Dijk, D. J., Hall, E. F. & Czeisler, C. A. Relationship of endogenous circadian melatonin and temperature rhythms to self-reported preference for morning or evening activity in young and older people. J. Investig. Med 47, 141–150 (1999).
Mecacci, L. & Zani, A. Morningness-eveningness preferences and sleep-waking dairy data of morning and evening types in student and worker samples. Ergonomics 26, 1147–1153 (1983).
Santisteban, J. A., Brown, T. G. & Gruber, R. Association between the munich chronotype questionnaire and wrist actigraphy. Sleep Disord. 2018, 5646848 (2018).
Roenneberg, T. et al. Human activity and rest in situ. Methods Enzymol. 552, 257–283 (2015).
Horne, J. A. & Ostberg, O. A self-assessment questionnaire to determine morningness-eveningness in human circadian rhythms. Int. J. Chronobiol. 4, 97–110 (1976).
Roenneberg, T., Wirz-Justice, A. & Merrow, M. Life between clocks: daily temporal patterns of human chronotypes. J. Biol. Rhythms 18, 80–90 (2003).
Adan, A. & Natale, V. Gender differences in morningness-eveningness preference. Chronobiol. Int. 19, 709–720 (2002).
Bailey, S. L. & Heitkemper, M. M. Circadian rhythmicity of cortisol and body temperature: morningness-eveningness effects. Chronobiol. Int. 18, 249–261 (2001).
Carrier, J., Monk, T. H., Buysse, D. J. & Kupfer, D. J. Sleep and morningness-eveningness in the ‘middle’ years of life (20-59 y). J. Sleep Res. 6, 230–237 (1997).
Zerbini, G. & Merrow, M. Time to learn: how chronotype impacts education. Psych. J. 6, 263–276 (2017).
Lipnevich, A. A. et al. How distinctive are morningness and eveningness from the big five factors of personality? A meta-analytic investigation. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 112, 491–509 (2017).
Hastings, M. H., Maywood, E. S. & Brancaccio, M. Generation of circadian rhythms in the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 19, 453–469 (2018).
Roenneberg, T., Allebrandt, K. V., Merrow, M. & Vetter, C. Social jetlag and obesity. Curr. Biol. 22, 939–943 (2012).
Carskadon, M. A. Sleep in adolescents: the perfect storm. Pediatr. Clin. North Am. 58, 637–647 (2011).
Carskadon, M. A. Adolescent Sleep Patterns: Biological, Social, and Psychological Influences (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002).
Talbot, L. S., McGlinchey, E. L., Kaplan, K. A., Dahl, R. E. & Harvey, A. G. Sleep deprivation in adolescents and adults: changes in affect. Emotion 10, 831–841 (2010).
Diaz-Morales, J. F. & Escribano, C. Social jetlag, academic achievement and cognitive performance: understanding gender/sex differences. Chronobiol. Int. 32, 822–831 (2015).
Malone, S. K. et al. Social jet lag, chronotype and body mass index in 14-17-year-old adolescents. Chronobiol. Int. 33, 1255–1266 (2016).
Levandovski, R. et al. Depression scores associate with chronotype and social jetlag in a rural population. Chronobiol. Int. 28, 771–778 (2011).
Wahlstrom, K. School start time and sleepy teens. Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. Med. 164, 676–677 (2010).
Owens, J. A., Belon, K. & Moss, P. Impact of delaying school start time on adolescent sleep, mood, and behavior. Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. Med. 164, 608–614 (2010).
Wheaton, A. G., Chapman, D. P. & Croft, J. B. School start times, sleep, behavioral, health, and academic outcomes: a review of the literature. J. Sch. Health 86, 363–381 (2016).
Dunster, G. P. et al. Sleepmore in Seattle: later school start times are associated with more sleep and better performance in high school students. Sci. Adv. 4, eaau6200 (2018).
Tonetti, L., Natale, V. & Randler, C. Association between circadian preference and academic achievement: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Chronobiol. Int. 32, 792–801 (2015).
Preckel, F., Lipnevich, A. A., Schneider, S. & Roberts, R. D. Chronotype, cognitive abilities, and academic achievement: a meta-analytic investigation. Learn. Individ. Dif. 21, 483–492 (2011).
Hasher, L. et al. in Attention and Performance XVII: Cognitive Regulation of Performance: Interaction of Theory and Application (eds Gopher, D. & Koriat, A.) 653–675 (MIT Press, 1999).
Goldstein, D., Hahn, C. S., Hasher, L., Wiprzycka, U. J. & Zelazo, P. D. Time of day, intellectual performance, and behavioral problems in morning versus evening type adolescents: is there a synchrony effect? Pers. Individ. Dif. 42, 431–440 (2007).
Hahn, C. et al. Circadian rhythms in executive function during the transition to adolescence: the effect of synchrony between chronotype and time of day. Dev. Sci. 15, 408–416 (2012).
Hasher, L., Goldstein, D. & May, C. in Human Learning and Memory: Advances in Theory and Application (eds Izawa, C. & Ohta, N.) 199–218 (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005).
Itzek-Greulich, H., Randler, C. & Vollmer, C. The interaction of chronotype and time of day in a science course: adolescent evening types learn more and are more motivated in the afternoon. Learn. Individ. Dif. 51, 189–198 (2016).
Preckel, F. et al. Morningness-eveningness and educational outcomes: the lark has an advantage over the owl at high school. Br. J. Educ. Psychol. 83, 114–134 (2013).
Zerbini, G. et al. Lower school performance in late chronotypes: underlying factors and mechanisms. Sci. Rep. 7, 4385 (2017).
May, C. P., Hasher, L. & Foong, N. Implicit memory, age, and time of day: paradoxical priming effects. Psychol. Sci. 16, 96–100 (2005).
Intons-Peterson, M. J., Rocchi, P., West, T., McLellan, K. & Hackney, A. Age, testing at preferred or nonpreferred times (testing optimality), and false memory. J. Exp. Psychol. 25, 23–40 (1999).
May, C. P. Synchrony effects in cognition: the costs and a benefit. Psychon. Bull. Rev. 6, 142–147 (1999).
Lara, T., Madrid, J. A. & Correa, A. The vigilance decrement in executive function is attenuated when individual chronotypes perform at their optimal time of day. PLoS One 9, e88820 (2014).
Arrona-Palacios, A. & Diaz-Morales, J. F. Morningness-eveningness is not associated with academic performance in the afternoon school shift: preliminary findings. Br. J. Educ. Psychol. 88, 480–498 (2017).
Martin, J. S., Gaudreault, M. M., Perron, M. & Laberge, L. Chronotype, light exposure, sleep, and daytime functioning in high school students attending morning or afternoon school shifts: an actigraphic study. J. Biol. Rhythms 31, 205–217 (2016).
van der Vinne, V. et al. Timing of examinations affects school performance differently in early and late chronotypes. J. Biol. Rhythms 30, 53–60 (2015).
Estevan, I., Silva, A. & Tassino, B. School start times matter, eveningness does not. Chronobiol. Int. 35, 1753–1757 (2018).
Wyatt, J. K., Ritz-De Cecco, A., Czeisler, C. A. & Dijk, D. J. Circadian temperature and melatonin rhythms, sleep, and neurobehavioral function in humans living on a 20-h day. Am. J. Physiol. 277, R1152–R1163 (1999).
Paruthi, S. et al. Recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations: a consensus statement of the american academy of sleep medicine. J. Clin. Sleep Med. 12, 785–786 (2016).
Watson, N. F. et al. Delaying middle school and high school start times promotes student health and performance: an american academy of sleep medicine position statement. J. Clin. Sleep Med. 13, 623–625 (2017).
Hirshkowitz, M. et al. National sleep foundation’s updated sleep duration recommendations: final report. Sleep Health 1, 233–243 (2015).
Akaike, H. in Second International Symposium on Information Theory (eds Pretrov, B. N. & Casaki, F.) 267–281 (Akademiai Kiado, 1973).
Randler, C. Morningness-eveningness comparison in adolescents from different countries around the world. Chronobiol. Int. 25, 1017–1028 (2008).
Carissimi, A. et al. The influence of school time on sleep patterns of children and adolescents. Sleep Med. 19, 33–39 (2016).
Perez-Lloret, S. et al. A multi-step pathway connecting short sleep duration to daytime somnolence, reduced attention, and poor academic performance: an exploratory cross-sectional study in teenagers. J. Clin. Sleep Med. 9, 469–473 (2013).
Touitou, Y. Adolescent sleep misalignment: a chronic jet lag and a matter of public health. J. Physiol. Paris 107, 323–326 (2013).
Diekelmann, S. & Born, J. The memory function of sleep. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 11, 114–126 (2010).
Lovato, N. & Lack, L. The effects of napping on cognitive functioning. Prog. Brain Res. 185, 155–166 (2010).
Stickgold, R. & Walker, M. P. Memory consolidation and reconsolidation: what is the role of sleep? Trends Neurosci. 28, 408–415 (2005).
Lo, J. C. et al. Neurobehavioral impact of successive cycles of sleep restriction with and without naps in adolescents. Sleep 40, zsw042 (2017).
Arbabi, T., Vollmer, C., Dorfler, T. & Randler, C. The influence of chronotype and intelligence on academic achievement in primary school is mediated by conscientiousness, midpoint of sleep and motivation. Chronobiol. Int. 32, 349–357 (2015).
Rahafar, A., Maghsudloo, M., Farhangnia, S., Vollmer, C. & Randler, C. The role of chronotype, gender, test anxiety, and conscientiousness in academic achievement of high school students. Chronobiol. Int. 33, 1–9 (2016).
Roeser, K., Schlarb, A. A. & Kübler, A. The chronotype-academic performance model (CAM): daytime sleepiness and learning motivation link chronotype and school performance in adolescents. Personal. Individ. Dif. 54, 836–840 (2013).
Carrell, S. E., Maghakian, T. & West, J. E. A’s from Zzzz’s? The causal effect of school start time on the academic achievement of adolescents. Am. Economic J. 3, 62–81 (2011).
Thacher, P. V. & Onyper, S. V. Longitudinal outcomes of start time delay on sleep, behavior, and achievement in high school. Sleep 39, 271–281 (2016).
Porcheret, K. et al. Chronotype and environmental light exposure in a student population. Chronobiol. Int. 35, 1365–1374 (2018).
van der Lely, S. et al. Blue blocker glasses as a countermeasure for alerting effects of evening light-emitting diode screen exposure in male teenagers. J. Adolesc. Health. 56, 113–119 (2015).
Meijer, A. M., Reitz, E. & Dekovic, M. Parenting matters: a longitudinal study into parenting and adolescent sleep. J. Sleep Res. 25, 556–564 (2016).
Kira, G., Maddison, R., Hull, M., Blunden, S. & Olds, T. Sleep education improves the sleep duration of adolescents: a randomized controlled pilot study. J. Clin. Sleep Med. 10, 787–792 (2014).
Portaluppi, F., Smolensky, M. H. & Touitou, Y. Ethics and methods for biological rhythm research on animals and human beings. Chronobiol. Int. 27, 1911–1929 (2010).
Adan, A. & Almirall, H. Adaptation and standardization of a Spanish version of the morningness-eveningness questionnaire: individual differences. Personal. Individ. Dif. 11, 1123–1130 (1990).
Kass, R. E. & Kaftery, A. E. Bayes factors. J. Am. Stat. Assoc. 90, 773–795 (1995).
Russell, L. emmeans: Estimated Marginal Means, aka Least-Squares Means. R package version 1.2.3. https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=emmeans (2018).
Kruschke, J. K. Doing Bayesian Data Analysis: A Tutorial with R and BUGS. (Academic, Elsevier, 2010).
Kleinman, K. & Huang, S. S. Calculating power by bootstrap, with an application to cluster-randomized trials. EGEMS 4, 1202 (2017).
Dewald, J. F., Meijer, A. M., Oort, F. J., Kerkhof, G. A. & Bogels, S. M. The influence of sleep quality, sleep duration and sleepiness on school performance in children and adolescents: a meta-analytic review. Sleep Med. Rev. 14, 179–189 (2010).
Santhi, N. et al. Morning sleep inertia in alertness and performance: effect of cognitive domain and white light conditions. PLoS One 8, e79688 (2013).
Haraszti, R. A., Ella, K., Gyongyosi, N., Roenneberg, T. & Kaldi, K. Social jetlag negatively correlates with academic performance in undergraduates. Chronobiol. Int. 31, 603–612 (2014).
We thank students, members of the faculty and staff at the authorities of the Escuela Superior de Comercio Carlos Pellegrini for their participation and help, and for allowing us to conduct this study; L. Rodríguez, M. Bentura, A. Barral, M. Belén Varela, I. Santa Cruz, V. Sarmiento, L. Leone, A. Haimovici, M. Montané, G. Rodriguez Ferrante and G. Gellon. This research was supported by Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica. M.S. is sponsored by CONICET, FONCyT Argentina grant PICT-2013-1653 and the James S. McDonnell Foundation 21st Century Science Initiative in Understanding Human Cognition Scholar Award. D.A.G. is funded by CONICET, FONCyT and Universidad Nacional de Quilmes. A.P.G. is sponsored by CONICET. M.J.L is funded by CONICET and Universidad Nacional de Quilmes. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Primary handling editors: Mary Elizabeth Sutherland and Stavroula Kousta.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Goldin, A.P., Sigman, M., Braier, G. et al. Interplay of chronotype and school timing predicts school performance. Nat Hum Behav (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0820-2