Only 24% Of College Students Are Getting Adequate Sleep
August 31, 2011

Only 24% Of College Students Are Getting Adequate Sleep


A new study has found that college students could be undermining their own education by not getting enough sleep.

The study evaluated the sleeping habits of about 200 undergraduate college students between the ages of 18 and 24 who were not living with a parent or legal guardian.  The University of Cincinnati (UC) researchers included 130 females and 67 males who were mostly first-and-second-year college students.

The study surveyed student sleeping habits over a 24-hour period against national recommendation for adults to get at least seven-to-eight hours of sleep.  Only 24 percent of the students who were surveyed reported getting adequate sleep. 

The study found that 54.8 percent reported getting under seven hours of sleep, while 20.8 percent reported sleeping over eight hours.

Short-term effects of inadequate sleep affect concentration and memory, which is what students need to learn and to pay attention in lectures.

"Sleep helps us save energy. It repairs cells in the body. And it's key for memory consolidation,"  Adam Knowlden, a UC doctoral student in UC's Health Promotion and Education Program, explains in a press release. "During sleep, the brain acts like a hard-drive on a computer. It goes in and cleans up memories and makes connections stronger, and it gets rid of things it doesn't need."

"So if a student is sleep-deprived, it affects the whole process," Knowlden says. "Students aren't able to learn, they're not able to remember, it's harder to concentrate and it affects mood. They're working their way through college and they're not maximizing their learning potential," he says.

Knowlden says the survey found that time management, financial concerns and stress management were all factors in why students were reporting they were sacrificing sleep.

He said if they are not practicing proper sleep habits, they cannot catch up on the weekend.

"It's like a bank account. If you try to take what's not there, it's not going to work. You can't make up for it once you miss it — you either get it or you don't."

He said that the health term for setting up proper sleep habits involves proper sleep hygiene.  According to Knowlden, these benefits stretch beyond not feeling sleepy or grumpy the next day.

"It's difficult to change habits, especially sleep habits, but if students really want to make a difference in maximizing their education and their learning experience, getting enough sleep is critical," Knowlden said in a press release.

"I've taught a stress management class here at UC and I've told students before that if they get nothing else out of this class, they need to remember to get seven or eight hours of sleep each night."

Among many things, the researchers recommend that students avoid going to bed and getting up at different times, avoid Internet social networking and games before bedtime, and avoid studying, reading eating or watching TV in bed as part of the bedtime routine.

The research was supported by a faculty mentoring grant from the Office of the Dean, UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH).

The study was also awarded first place in the social and behavioral sciences category of the University of Cincinnati Graduate Poster Forum in 2010.


On the Net: