How do body clocks affect academic achievement in adolescents?

The effect of body clocks on academic achievement in adolescents remains an unanswered question. It is known that over 70 per cent of adolescents in Australia experience insufficient sleep on school nights, and that this insufficient and mistimed sleep leads to reduced cognitive function. Yet, it is not currently understood how the circadian clock plays a role in cognitive function and consequently academic achievement.

There’s an urgent need to examine multiple domains of sleep and their associations with relevant cognitive outcomes such as reading, writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation and numeracy, taking into account the developmental trajectories of the circadian clock, behavioural patterns of environmental light exposure, and social constraints such as school start times.

Thanks to the recent award of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project (ARC DP) to Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, MICCN will use state-of-the-art measures of the biological clock, rigorous assessment of light exposure, and sophisticated analytical approaches to examine the relative contributions of multiple biological clock and sleep factors that may be linked to cognitive function and sleepiness in adolescents. The aim will be to identify sleep-related markers of academic achievement.

“Through the Project, we will gain new knowledge to drive prevention and early intervention programs that use sleep-wake and light exposure information to improve sleep quality in these adolescents,” Professor Rajaratnam said. “With this information, we will then be able to contribute to improvements in education and policy through child and parent education programs and guidelines for optimal sleep in adolescence.”

This grant was one of 92 Discovery and Linkage Projects awarded to Monash University in the latest round of ARC funding.

We congratulate Professor Rajaratnam and everyone on their achievements, and look forward to sharing the research outcomes from MICCN’s new project, “Assessment of circadian and light interactions in adolescent sleepiness”.

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Professor Shantha Rajaratnam has received an ARC Discovery Project grant to assess how the circadian clock affects academic achievement in adolescents