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Alex LaPlante 2/25/2018

Sleep Deprivation in College Students

College is one of those times that many want to experience to the fullest. It also provides

great value for emerging adults with a structured environment to which they gain knowledge,

skills, and the independence to chart their own path. While the cost of tuition and the overall cost

of going to college is rising and the technology around us is always advancing it’s becoming

more vital to a college student to be as efficacious as possible. One of the largest obstacles across

all colleges is the lack of sleep, sleep deprivation, daytime sleepiness, and irregular sleep

schedules. The cause of each is a host of different reasons with numerous negative consequences.

In this paper I’d like to discuss several different sleep issues which are not often considered as a

risk factor for depression and academic failure.

Normally, sleep deprivation is often termed acute sleep deprivation or chronic partial

sleep deprivation, for students something like acute sleep deprivation is called “pulling an

all-nighter” meaning that the person is awake for 24 hours or more. Sleep deprivation in the most

basic way is simply obtaining inadequate sleep to support adequate daytime alertness. The

majority of college students are sleep deprived, 70.6% of students report to on average obtain

less than the 8 hours, which is thought to be around the amount of time a young adult needs to

sleeps to be considers to not have sleep deprivation of some scale. But more typically sleep

deprivation consists of chronic partial sleep disorders, where students obtain some but not
adequate sleep. While this of course can cause sleepiness it can also lead to sleep disorders. As

reported at an Architecture School in the Midwest, “only 4% of students obtained at least 7 hours

at night; the average sleep duration was 5.7 hours with 2.7 all nighters a month, with 82% of

college students believe that inadequate sleep and sleepiness having an impact on their school

performance”. Sleep deprivation os not the only cause of sleepiness on campus, as I stated

before, sleep disorders also play a large role. A survey of 1845 students suggested that 27%

were at risk for at least one sleep disorder or sleep related problem including obstructive sleep

apnea(4%), insomnia(12%), restless legs disorder/periodic limb movement disorder(8%),

circadian rhythm sleep disorders(7%), and hypersomnia(4%).

Among college students one of the most common causes of sleepiness is sleep

deprivation, where students go to bed late and wake up early. The cause of this can be labeled

under several different reasons the main occurrences are from physiological and other behavioral

components. A large portion of the average sleep deprivation on college campuses are due to

inadequate sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene encourages habits for restorative sleep and avoidance

of substances or behaviors that are not. A proper healthy sleep hygiene includes a regular sleep

schedule with a quiet sleep environment and avoidance of caffeine after lunch and stimulating

activities before bed. Substances such as caffeine and energy drinks are a large cause of a bad

sleep hygiene but not the only cause. On average 4 out of 5 college students drink alcohol, with

40% of both men and women reporting “binge drinking”. Alcohol can cause shortness of sleep

latency but at the same time promotes sleep in the latter half of the night. One study showed that

11.6% of students who drank alcohol used it as a sleep aid.


Caffeine and energy drinks are becoming more and more popular now a days, with 34%

of 18-24 year olds consuming them on the regular. With 67% of users consumed energy drinks

to help compensate of the insufficient sleep. Caffeine, usually equivalent to 2-4 cups of coffee

taken at night can increase sleep latency and reduce sleepiness along with improving the ability

to sustain wakefulness. The effects of caffeine lasted 5.5-7.5 hours suggesting that caffeine even

in the afternoon could impair the ability to fall asleep. The net effect of both being that they

increase vigilance, alertness, and decreases sleepiness. Being that more often than not one is used

to help wake up and the other to stay awake later in the night/day. The majority of college

students drink both while the scale leans more to the consumption of energy drinks for students

who are up late “studying” and pulling all nighters.

Technology as mentioned is ever advancing in society today. With inadequate sleep

hygiene encompassing the use of technology prior to bed, it’s easy to say that college students

are staying up later and later as we drink our energy drinks and play video games and write our

research papers. A Sleep in America Poll addressed technology available in the bedroom of

generation Y’ers ( adults aged 19-29 years old) are heavy users prior to bed: 67% use cell

phones, 43% music devices, 60% computers, and 18% video games. 51% report that they rarely

get a good nights sleep and often wake unrefreshed, with computer use in the hour before bed

which is associated with less restful sleep and higher sleepiness and drowsiness. In the end us

college students would be a lot better of in our education and future careers if even for a few

days of the week, we get of our computers and phones, stopped playing video games and looking

at memes and just sleep.