Lower school performance in late chronotypes: underlying factors and mechanisms

Giulia Zerbini (First author), Vincent van der Vinne, Lana K.M. Otto, Thomas Kantermann, Wim P. Krijnen, Till Roenneberg, Martha Merrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Success at school determines future career opportunities. We described a time-of-day specific disparity in school performance between early and late chronotypes. Several studies showed that students with a late chronotype and short sleep duration obtain lower grades, suggesting that early school starting times handicap their performance. How chronotype, sleep duration, and time of day impact school performance is not clear. At a Dutch high school, we collected 40,890 grades obtained in a variety of school subjects over an entire school year. We found that the strength of the effect of chronotype on grades was similar to that of absenteeism, and that late chronotypes were more often absent. The difference in grades between the earliest 20% and the latest 20% of chronotypes corresponds to a drop from the 55th to 43rd percentile of grades. In academic subjects using mainly fluid cognition (scientific subjects), the correlation with grades and chronotype was significant while subjects relying on crystallised intelligence (humanistic/linguistic) showed no correlation with chronotype. Based on these and previous results, we can expand our earlier findings concerning exam times: students with a late chronotype are at a disadvantage in exams on scientific subjects, and when they are examined early in the day.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4385
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2017


  • human circadian clock
  • morningness-eveningness
  • academic performance
  • social jetlag
  • students
  • chronotypes

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