Semester Long Changes in Sleep Duration for College Students

Article excerpt

Statement of the Problem: This study was intended to assess changes in nightly sleep duration over the course of one semester based on gender, residency, and year in school among college students. In addition, issues related to short sleep, factors affecting sleep, and perceived restfulness were assessed.

Methods: 820 students from a Midwest university completed four separate monthly e-survey's assessing sleep duration, including time to bed, time to wake, types of sleep disturbance, and perceived restfulness. All data were analyzed with SPSS (V.17.0).

Results: Sleep duration ranged from 7:30 to 7:58 throughout, with freshmen sleeping 20 min longer than upper division students (p = .006). The overall prevalence of short sleep ranged from 23% to 30%, and students reported a mean of 3.39 (SD = 1.48) days per week where they awoke feeling rested. Females reported significantly longer sleep durations in November and December compared to September (p=.005 and p= .003, respectively), and the entire sample showed a change in sleep duration over time (p=.035). The most common reasons listed for sleep inadequacy were studying/school-related work, socializing with friends, leisure activities, and stress.

Conclusions: Sleep duration appears to increase over the course of a semester, especially in female students. Less than half of all students reporting feeling rested upon waking, yet the mean sleep duration appears sufficient (~7h 45m). This study points out the importance of sequential data collection regarding sleep duration and also that inferring good sleep habits based solely on duration may not be appropriate.

Semester long changes in sleep duration for college students

Sleep and sleep habits have been studied across many population segments. For adults, literature supports 7-8 hr of sleep each night as optimal (Chaput, Despres, Bouchard, & Tremblay, 2008; Hublin, Partinen, & Koskenvuo, 2007), while it is suggested that children need even more sleep, or as much as 10-14 hr per night (National Sleep Foundation, 2008). Mounting evidence also suggests less than optimal amounts of sleep may be associated with a number of health problems, including increased risk for obesity, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension (Ayas et al., 2003; Beihl, Liese, & Haffner, 2009; Gangwisch et al., 2006; Hasler et al., 2004; Lumeng et al., 2007; Taheri, Lin, Austin, Young, & Mignot, 2004).

College students, a much narrower but equally important population, have also been studied in regard to sleep patterns and habits, including sleep deprivation, perceived quality of sleep, and mean sleep duration. Varying reports on sleep duration in college students exist. Hicks, Fernandez, and Pellegrini (2001) sampled three separate large cohorts of students over three consecutive decades and reported a median sleep duration of 6.65 hr in 2000, or one full hour less than reported in the late 1970s. However, subsequent research has been unable to show the same degree of short sleep duration. Forquer, Camden, Gabriau, and Johnson (2008) sampled 313 students and reported a mean sleep duration of 7.2 hr (SD = 1.2 hr) on weekdays and 8.6 hr (SD = 1.5 hr) on weekends, while Hosek, Phelps, and Jensen (2004) examined sleeping patterns among a sample of 996 students and found a mean sleep duration of 7.69 hr (SD = .99 hr). In addition, Forquer and colleagues (2008) noted gender differences in sleep duration with a significantly greater mean value among females; however, prior research has demonstrated conflicting results with regards to gender differences in sleep duration (Ban & Lee, 2001; Jean-Louis, von Gizycki, Zizi, & Nunes, 1998).

In addition to sleep duration, personal perceptions of sleep quality and habits (e.g., nightly awakenings, sleep disturbances) have been explored in college students (Forquer et al., 2008; Buboltz, Brown, & Soper, 2001). Findings from a sample of 191 students by Buboltz et al. …