Sleep-deprived College Students: Asleep at the Wheel

Release Date: March 2, 2010 | By Sylviane Duval, Contributing Writer
Research Source:

College students are getting 45 minutes less sleep per night than 40 years ago, and two hours less than the nine recommended by the National Sleep Foundation — putting them at risk of motor vehicle accidents, a small new study suggests.

These findings appear online in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Study authors asked some 1,000 undergraduates to complete a diary first thing every morning for one week to record the quantity and quality of their sleep and their use of drugs and alcohol to alter sleep patterns. Participants also answered questions related to drowsiness and driving.

The results document a disturbing trend: 60 percent of students use stimulants and 18 percent use medication or alcohol to combat their natural sleep-wake cycle and to balance their jobs, social activities and study load. The irregular sleep patterns — amplified on the weekends — and resulting sleep deprivation can lead to depression, headaches, poor academic performance and social skills, and daytime drowsiness; hence, the car accidents.

The authors also found that males were nearly twice as likely to use alcohol as a sleep aid than females and a third more likely to fall asleep at the wheel.

“This study supports what many others have found: insufficient sleep is epidemic,” said Daniel Taylor, lead study author and an assistant professor at the University of North Texas. “It is perhaps more problematic in young adults because their coping methods — alcohol and substances, skipping homework/class or just pushing through their sleep — set them up for such severe consequences such as addictions and potentially fatal car crashes.”

Since sleep deprivation in college students can have such far-reaching effects on society, the authors recommend that researchers focus on ways to improve the duration and quality of students’ sleeping habits and wean them from their dependency on drugs and medication to manage their lives.

Dr. Roger Godbout, director of the Sleep Laboratory and Clinic at the Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies, in Montreal, said that scientific data on sleep among college students are scarce. He said he hopes that the growing amount of literature on the subject will drive future research on the causal relationships between sleep and daytime behavior in college students, a suspected connection solely based on anecdotal reports up to now.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Reach the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, at (202) 387-2829 or hbns-editor@cfah.org.

Journal of Adolescent Health: Contact Tor Berg at (415) 502-1373 or tor.berg@ucsf.edu or visit www.jahonline.org

Taylor DJ, Bramoweth AD. Patterns and consequences of inadequate sleep in college students: substance use and motor vehicle accidents. J Adolesc Health online, 2010.

Tags for this article:
Children and Young People's Health   Accidents and Safety  



Comments on this article
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Keisha Odain says
March 8, 2010 at 12:40 PM

Hi I'm from the Chino area. I have fealt that there are alot of reasons why an international Black would actually go throough sleep deprivation. Some things being that truama plays a key in deviding thoughts towards unemployed feeling like readmittance back to school including the fears of losing everything they'd work for, coupled with depression, some might think that may lead to anxiety. And also mismanaged health where they have to give up the major part of their individuality by moving back home with their parents. It gets to be on my nerves when there are setbacks from job change. Where I used to write and found myself ill with stress overload and at ease with moving back home to live with a typoid mothers and its nice to be included but the drive from hear to there in San Bernardino in thought is very rewarding in some sense, but the hope that times brings to our health a needed healing and our past freinds warmth.
And dealing with losses like death of a loved one.

Keisha Odain says
March 8, 2010 at 12:57 PM

Hi I'm from the Chino area. I have fealt that there are alot of reasons why an international Black would actually go through sleep deprivation. Some things being that truama plays a key in deviding thoughts towards unemployed feeling like readmittance back to school and included the fears of losing everything they'd work for, coupled with depression, some might think that may lead to anxiety. And also mismanaged health brings me back home with my mother. It gets to be on my nerves when there are setbacks from job changes. I feel like I mismanaged something something out there. Where I used to write and was literary, I had found myself ill with stress overload, and at ease with moving back home to live with a typoid mothers seemed nice to be included. To think that the drive from hear to there in San Bernardino, in thought, is very rewarding in some sense, but the hope that times brings to our health a needed healing and our past freinds warmth peace is stimulating.
And dealing with losses like death of a loved one is fearful and traumatizing, dealth with as of recent.