JOURNAL ARTICLE

Sleep patterns and predictors of disturbed sleep in a large population of college students

Hannah G Lund, Brian D Reider, Annie B Whiting, J Roxanne Prichard
Journal of Adolescent Health: Official Publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine 2010, 46 (2): 124-32
20113918

PURPOSE: To characterize sleep patterns and predictors of poor sleep quality in a large population of college students. This study extends the 2006 National Sleep Foundation examination of sleep in early adolescence by examining sleep in older adolescents.

METHOD: One thousand one hundred twenty-five students aged 17 to 24 years from an urban Midwestern university completed a cross-sectional online survey about sleep habits that included the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, the Horne-Ostberg Morningness-Eveningness Scale, the Profile of Mood States, the Subjective Units of Distress Scale, and questions about academic performance, physical health, and psychoactive drug use.

RESULTS: Students reported disturbed sleep; over 60% were categorized as poor-quality sleepers by the PSQI, bedtimes and risetimes were delayed during weekends, and students reported frequently taking prescription, over the counter, and recreational psychoactive drugs to alter sleep/wakefulness. Students classified as poor-quality sleepers reported significantly more problems with physical and psychological health than did good-quality sleepers. Students overwhelmingly stated that emotional and academic stress negatively impacted sleep. Multiple regression analyses revealed that tension and stress accounted for 24% of the variance in the PSQI score, whereas exercise, alcohol and caffeine consumption, and consistency of sleep schedule were not significant predictors of sleep quality.

CONCLUSIONS: These results demonstrate that insufficient sleep and irregular sleep-wake patterns, which have been extensively documented in younger adolescents, are also present at alarming levels in the college student population. Given the close relationships between sleep quality and physical and mental health, intervention programs for sleep disturbance in this population should be considered.

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