I cannot count the number of nights I lie in bed unable to fall asleep because I am too stressed about an exam, but I am too tired to study. Last year, I could not get through the day with at least a couple cups of coffee and Red Bull. I always knew this was far from healthy, but recent studies have found just how detrimental this behavior is on the physical and mental health of the college population.
Over one thousand students from an urban Midwestern university were surveyed about their sleep habits using roughly eight different scales . The results proved that more than 60% of college students are technically poor-quality sleepers. This is not a surprise, for caffeine is like oxygen for some of us. The implications? Students classified as poor-quality sleepers reported considerably more problems with physical and psychological health than did good-quality sleepers.
Some students are lucky enough to have a consistent schedule over the week, but delayed bedtimes and risetimes during the weekends take its toll on one's circadian rhythm. Furthermore, sleep is negatively impacted by the overwhelming amount of emotional and academic stress that smothers college students on the regular. Frequent use of prescription, over the counter, and recreational psychoactive drugs to alter sleep/wakefulness are usually the answer, but are by no means a cure.
Interestingly, multiple tests reveal that tension and stress accounted for 24% of the variance in the PSQI score, whereas alcohol, exercise and caffeine consumption, and consistency of sleep schedule were not significant predictors of sleep quality. Thus, it is vital that students manage their stress levels if there is going to be any improvements in one's quality of sleep. The results of these studies suggest that intervention programs for sleep disturbance in the college population should be considered. But who has time for sleep therapy when we have our GPAs, bills, juggling work with class, and attempts of a social life to worry about?
I have never considered myself a morning person, and another study of almost seven thousand adolescents proved even more bad news for me. They surveyed two sample groups, one morning type and one evening-type. Evening-types are associated with later bedtime and wake-up time, especially on weekends, shorter time in bed during the week, and longer weekend time in bed. Sound familiar?
Unfortunately, the reality of this is that the outcome is characterized by daytime sleepiness, increased attention problems, reduced school achievement, more injuries, and increased emotional upset than the other chronotype. They referred also greater caffeine-containing beverages and substances to promote sleep consumption . The good news to this is perhaps there is a chance for us night owls by making a constant effort to go to bed and wake up earlier. And as for the rest of college students that lie awake at night with thoughts racing through their minds, science has proved that stress management is your best solution.