May 13, 2008 A Central Michigan University study has determined that many college students have sleep patterns that could have detrimental effects on their daily performance.
As a graduate student, CMU alumna LeAnne Forquer, now a psychology faculty member at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., had her own trouble sleeping, prompting her to conduct a study to determine if other students experienced the same problems. Along with CMU psychology professor Carl Johnson, Forquer surveyed more than 300 college students, freshmen through graduate students, many of whom admitted that it took longer than 30 minutes for them to fall asleep and/or they woke more than once a night for at least five nights a week.
The study, which was published in the Journal of American College Health, concluded that one third of the sample took more than 30 minutes to fall asleep and 43 percent woke more than once a night. The students in the sample also had later bedtimes and wake times on weekends compared to weekdays, disrupting the circadian rhythm, a person's 24-hour day-night cycle that influences quantity and quality of sleep. Stability of the circadian rhythm ensures better sleep, therefore, bed and wake times should be the same every day of the week, including weekends.
"What I found most interesting about the study was the large numbers of students who were having the same problems as me, such as taking a long time to fall asleep and waking numerous times throughout the night," Forquer said. "I had felt for so many years that I was the only one."
College students are among the most sleep-deprived age group in the U.S. Sleep deprivation can have detrimental effects on daily performance, including academics and driving, and has also been linked to depressed mood and behavioral problems.
A similar study by Forquer and Johnson, published in "Sleep and Hypnosis," found that the use of continuous white noise may help college students get better sleep. The study found that white noise was effective for college students with self-reported sleep problems to decrease difficulty in falling asleep and night wakings.
"These issues are extremely important because not getting enough sleep is associated with impaired attention, school performance, and also can lead to driving accidents as people fall asleep behind the wheel of their car," said Forquer. "Helping students sleep better will hopefully carry over to help them in some of these areas as well."
Forquer would like to see sleep issues included in courses aimed at helping students transition into college life in order to help them understand the consequences of staying up too late and not getting enough sleep. She also uses her research to introduce these topics in her introductory psychology course at Delta State.
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