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Schoolchildren 'more alert and attentive in the afternoon'

14/06/2017 Joanna

Schoolchildren may be more alert, awake and ready to learn in the afternoon than they are in the morning, according to new research.

The study, conducted by the University of Oxford as part of the BBC Terrific Scientific educational campaign, analysed the sleep diaries of 900 children aged nine to 11, and discovered trends that challenged conventional wisdom about the best time to schedule lessons.

Sleep diaries covered three days on either side of the clocks going forward on March 26th, while a series of tests were also carried out to measure children's tiredness and reaction times in the morning and afternoon.

It was found that 68 per cent of participants described themselves as being more of an "evening type", with greater energy levels and higher alertness later in the day, meaning they tended to be sleepier in the morning than the afternoon.

The research also showed that sleep time for the children increased by an average of 30 minutes after the clock-change weekend, contradicting expectations that an hour's sleep would be lost. This was because pupils woke up ten minutes later on average in the morning after the clock change.

These findings may come as a surprise to many primary schools, which often arrange their timetables around the idea that children are more focused and alert in the morning, meaning maths and literacy lessons tend to be held early in the day.

Katharina Wulff, an Oxford University research lecturer who specialises in sleep, said: "Results were surprising in two ways - first, that children slept longer after the clock change; secondly, their reaction time was faster in the afternoon than in the morning.

"The investigation provides a great example of how schoolchildren can get directly involved in research, proving perceived public wisdom wrong."

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