College Students: Why does Sleep Matter?

By Alliemarie Humphries | PhD Student, UAB Community Health & Human Services

Did you know college students are more susceptible to poor sleep hygiene and sleep quality? Over the last decade, studies have found that college students reported having poor sleep and poor sleep behaviors (Kloss et al., 2015; ACHA, 2020; Gipson et al, 2019). Getting a good night’s rest can improve your cognitive performance and capabilities, your mood, and overall health. The cited health risks include potentially developing a sleeping disorder, low sleep hygiene and practices can lead to a myriad of both long and short term adverse health outcomes.  Health ailments include: high blood pressure, depression, and obesity have been linked to poor sleep quality and quantity.  In extreme cases, individuals can be fatally injured while driving if they are experience poor sleep. An annual report by the Traffic National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that more than 697 accidents are as a result of falling asleep behind the wheel that resulted in fatal injuries (2020). This is an issue that places the individual driving and members of the community at risk.

It is recommended that adults receive 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night (CDC, 2017). To compare, young adults are recommended to receive 8 to 10 hours and infants are recommended to receive up to 16 hours of sleep nightly (CDC,2017).  A growing need to review the lifestyles and behaviors in the college context is necessary, especially regarding how students perceive their own wellness as a means of sacrificing healthy behaviors to achieve academic goals. The past 20 year of scientific literature explains that college students experience higher rates of poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation (Hicks et al., 2001). So which is more important, quality or quantity of sleep. Neither, they are both important. As college students, there are already numerous factors that must be balanced to ensure success towards graduation. How could one possibly add another item to the already many demands of college life? Remember, college is a period in your life, but sleep is a part of your whole life and is thusly important to your quality of life.

Sleep hygiene is a combination of an individual’s sleep quality and sleep habits. The regular maintenance of routine and consistency are found at the rudimentary comprehension of sleep (NHLBI, 2009). To improve this area of your health, specifically your relationship and perceptions towards your sleep, it’s helpful to consider what your current sleep hygiene routine and behaviors look like. To do this using a sleep journal can help to navigate what your behaviors are throughout the day and their influence on your sleep schedule and ultimately the quality of sleep. Additionally, some tips are below in support of sleep wellness.

For a healthier sleep, avoid:
– Avoid exercising within a 3-hour window of when you plan to go to bed
– Avoid eating heavy meals before bed
– Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and over the counter stimulants
– Do not use screens or other digital items with blue light before bed
– Avoid stimulating activities before bed
– Avoid drinking caffeine 8 to 10 hours prior to going to sleep

For healthier sleep, try:
– Daily physical activity (more than 3 hours before your bedtime)
– Implement a sleep schedule; going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
– Embrace a cat nap; keep your naps between 15 and 20 minutes
– Keep your sleeping environment clean and calming space
– Only use your bed for sleep and sex; avoid doing homework from your bed
– If you like to read before bed, read in a different space than your bed

If you have trouble sleeping, try:
– If you are unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and engage in a light activity until you feel sleep once again
– Breathing techniques, such as meditation or light yoga stretches
– Journaling

References
American College Health Association (ACHA). (2020, May). The Healthy Campus Framework. Healthy Campus. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.acha.org/healthycampus 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, March 2). How Much Sleep Do I Need? Retrieved March 25, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html

George, D., Dixon, S., Stansal, E., Gelb, S. L., & Pheri, T. (2008). Time Diary and questionnaire assessment of factors associated with academic and personal success among University undergraduates. Journal of American College Health56(6), 706–715. https://doi.org/10.3200/jach.56.6.706-715

Gipson, C. S., Chilton, J. M., Dickerson, S. S., Alfred, D., & Haas, B. K. (2018). Effects of a sleep hygiene text message intervention on sleep in college students. Journal of American College Health67(1), 32–41. https://doi.org/10.1080/07448481.2018.1462816 

Kloss, J. D., Nash, C. O., Walsh, C. M., Culnan, E., Horsey, S., & Sexton-Radek, K. (2015). A “sleep 101” program for college students improves sleep hygiene knowledge and reduces maladaptive beliefs about sleep. Behavioral Medicine42(1), 48–56. https://doi.org/10.1080/08964289.2014.969186 

Hanson, J. A., & Huecker, M. R. (2021). Sleep Deprivation. StatPearls. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547676/

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). (2009, August). At-A-Glance: Healthy Sleep. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/ 

National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2020, December). Overview of motor vehicle crashes in 2019. (Traffic Safety Facts Research Note. Report No. DOT HS 813 060). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP? TEST YOURSELF AND TRY THESE TIPS

by Adrienne Stokes, M. Ed. | UAB Community Health & Human Services Alumni

Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.com

A good night’s sleep should not be taken for granted. Not getting enough sleep is linked to increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and depression. Exhaustion can also lead to vehicular accidents and mistakes at work.

Sufficient sleep is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. It is recommended that most adults sleep 7-9 hours each night for optimal health. It is also important that your regular sleep is of good quality, so you feel rested when you wake.

Getting enough sleeps means less sickness, a healthy weight, lower health risks for serious health conditions, reduced stress, improved mood, clearer thinking, and better decision making.

Talk to your doctor if you often have trouble sleeping or still feel tired after sleeping as these are symptoms of a possible sleep disorder.


Good Sleep Habits

  • Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time, even on the weekends
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature
  • Remove electronic devices from the bedroom (i.e. TVs, computers, cell-phones)
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime
  • Enjoy some physical activity before bedtime

Are you getting enough sleep?

Take the Sleep Hygiene Index below to see if you are getting enough sleep. Answer the following thirteen (13) questions. If after adding your total below, your score is 7 and above, consider trying the good sleep habits above.

  1. I take daytime naps lasting 2 or more hours (Yes or No)
  2. I go to bed at different times from day to day (Yes or No)
  3. I get out of be at different times from day to day (Yes or No)
  4. I exercise to the point of sweating within 1 hour of going to bed (Yes or No)
  5. I stay in bed longer than I should 2 or 3 times a week (Yes or No)
  6. I use alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine within 4 hours of going to bed (Yes or No)
  7. I do something that may wake me up before bedtime (play video games, browse internet, clean) (Yes or No)
  8. I go to bed feeling stressed, angry, upset, or nervous (Yes or No)
  9. I use my bed for things other than sleep or sex (watching TV, reading, eating, studying) (Yes or No)
  10. I sleep on an uncomfortable bed (poor mattress or pillow, too much or not enough blankets) (Yes or No)
  11. I sleep in an uncomfortable bedroom (too bright, too stuffy, too hot, too cold, too noisy) (Yes or No)
  12. I do important work before bedtime (pay bills, study) (Yes or No)
  13. I think, plan, or worry when I am in bed (Yes or No)

Score

For every Yes add 1 point, for every No add 0 points. Add up your totals.

0-3 Very Good

4-6 Good

7-9 Poor

10-13 Very Poor

(Sleep Hygiene Index Adapted from Mastin, Bryson & Corwyn, 2006)


Please check out the sources below to learn more about the practicing good sleep habits. Please also share your thoughts about sleep and sleep hygiene in the comments section of this post or via our page on Facebook @WilkinsonWellnessLab.

Resources and Further Reading

https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/everyday-healthy-living/mental-health-and-relationships/get-enough-sleep#panel-4

https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html