Sleep and College Satisfaction

By Woodard, Melissa A.; Jechura, Tammy J. et al. | North American Journal of Psychology, December 2017 | Go to article overview

Sleep and College Satisfaction


Woodard, Melissa A., Jechura, Tammy J., Elias, Elizabeth P., North American Journal of Psychology


Sleep permeates every aspect of our lives. When we don't get enough, it can impact our memory (Stickgold, 2005), health (Lemola et al., 2011), mood (Talbot et al., 2010), ability to deal with stress (Hamilton, Catley, & Karlson, 2007), job satisfaction (Pilchner, 1998), and so much more. Unfortunately, many people do not regularly get enough sleep. In fact, our society often views sleep as a luxury or, even worse, a waste of time (Hershner, 2015). College students are especially prone to restricting sleep (Hershner, 2015). A national college health assessment found that when college students were asked about their sleep over the past 7 days, only about 10% stated that they felt they got enough sleep to feel rested in the morning for at least 6 of the 7 days of the week (American College Health Association, 2012). Sixty-three percent stated that they felt 'tired, dragged out, or sleepy' for at least 3 days out of the week, and almost 91% stated that they had at least a little problem with daytime sleepiness.

Mood changes as a result of lack of adequate sleep have been reported in both adolescents and adults. Talbot, Mcglinchey, Kaplan, Dahl, and Harvey (2010) found that adolescent and adult participants reported less positive affect while in a sleep deprived condition than compared to the rested condition. Given that one's mood influences many aspects of a person's life, decreased mood could become a major problem if not addressed. Decreased mood has also been shown to be associated with negative interpretation of situations (Calvo & Castillo, 1997), irritability (Epstein, 2008), and social withdrawal (Rubin & Burgess, 2001), which could become major problems for college students.

Stress and anxiety management are also related to sleep and are two difficulties common to college students. Sleep-deprived individuals were more reactive to stress and pain, thus showing fewer coping skills when sleep deprived (Hamilton, Catley, & Karlson, 2007). Anxiety levels in another study were also tested and it was found that when participants were asked to catastrophize, or think of worst case scenarios, sleep deprived individuals reported more anxiety than non-deprived participants (Talbot et al., 2010). Participants also rated the likelihood of those catastrophes as more likely to occur. These studies suggest that not only are individuals less able to cope with stress, they are also more likely to be anxious when sleep deprived. Given the amount of stress that college students face, the lack of sleep could set the stage for very difficult times in college.

Sleep loss has also been tied to performance in college students, and in a particular study, Gaultney (2016) found that risk for a sleep disorder and poor sleep hygiene predicted GPA. Furthermore, a previous study (Gaultney, 2010) found that 27% of college students reported behaviors that indicated the possibility of at least one sleep disorder. Gaultney's 2016 study also found that students at risk for a sleep disorder were more likely to leave their school. Thus, sleep disturbances appear to decrease retention rates in college students.

Other consequences of sleep loss can be even less obvious. One study evaluated the financial aspects of insomnia and divided them into direct and indirect costs (Metlaine, Leger, & Choudat, 2005). Examples of direct costs would be medical care, such as doctor's bills, and an example of indirect costs would be costs from property damage after a car accident due to sleep loss (e.g. falling asleep while driving). Chilcott and Shapiro (1996) also found that there can be occupational and financial setbacks in a person's life when they are not getting enough sleep (as cited in Harvey & Tang, 2011). An example of this would be missing work because of a decline in health due to a compromised immune system. Missing work leads to smaller paychecks, and being ill can lead to larger medical bills. Both of these not only impact an individual's occupational life but also their financial stability. …

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