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Study shows poor sleep negatively affects college students


Friday, June 06, 2014

The new-found sense of independence experienced by many new college students often comes with a price. Tasked with creating and maintaining their own school, work and social schedules, many students push sleep to the back burner. A recent study shows that the efforts to meet the academic and social demands of college and the sleep deprivation often associated with these efforts is ultimately detrimental to academic success.

Sleep deprivation hurts student efforts
According to a recent study by Roxanne Prichard, Ph.D. and Monica Hartmann, both of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, poor sleeping habits contribute to academic problems. After analyzing data from a 2009 survey of more than 43,000 people, the researchers found that sleep deprivation was tied to low GPAs and even a high rate of course withdrawals. In fact, not getting enough rest on a consistent basis was reported to have the same effect on academic achievement as binge drinking and drug use, highlighting the idea that students who take care of themselves physically will be more prepared to handle the mental and social challenges of college.

"Well-rested students perform better academically and are healthier physically and psychologically, Pritchard and Hartmann said in a statement.

Colleges can focus on improving student health
Although sleep deprivation is a serious problem plaguing many people on college campuses, it rarely receives the same attention as other issues, such as drinking or drug use. The Huffington Post reported that this is largely because few students have clinical sleep disorders; instead, about 60 percent are likely to have some other problem sleeping that is difficult to diagnose.

Addressing sleeping problems on a college campus, particularly for younger students who are creating daily schedules and adjusting to a new way of life, may be a good way to increase the odds of academic success.

"Sleep problems are not systematically addressed in the same way that substance abuse problems are," said Prichard. "For colleges and universities, addressing sleep problems early in a student's academic career can have a major economic benefit through increased retention."

Even students who are preparing for college can take steps to improve their sleeping habits ahead of time. Building a consistent routine and discovering personal preferences for getting an adequate amount of rest, for example, will certainly come in handy once on a campus. 

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