BYU study: 7 hours of sleep nets top test scores

Posted at 5:59 PM, Feb 17, 2012
and last updated 2012-02-19 20:49:39-05

A team of economists at Brigham Young University set out to determine whether there is a relationship between the number of hours of sleep a student gets each night and how well he performs on standardized tests.

Mark Showalter and Eric Eide, both BYU economists, studied test rest results from more than 1,700 students ages 10 to 18 across the nation to find a correlation between the number of hours a student typically sleeps and how well he performs on standardized tests.

"To tell us if there's some some amount of sleep that is associated with highest test scores and the data does," said Showalter.

Their results were surprising; national recommendations suggest 9 hours of sleep a night for students, but the highest test scores were associated with students who got 7 hours of sleep per night.

"For 10- and 12-year-olds, we find that the hours of sleep associated with higher test scores to be 8 and 9 hours. Then it declines by about an hour for every two-year period," said Showalter.

Showalter says that their work is from an economic, not health, standpoint, and each child is different, but the gap between their numbers and national numbers left them wondering.

"Our results differed so greatly from the national guidelines--which were so high--so we started digging into the national guidelines and the softness of the empirical work behind that surprised us," said Showalter.

The results of the study were recently published in the Eastern Economics Journal.