Sleep Deprivation Among College Students Essay

It happens that I have often times found myself feeling tired and drowsy throughout the day. This has even occurred after a full eight hours of sleep. I don’t regularly get a full nights rest and from observations of friends and roommates I deduce they rarely do as well. Upon initial research I found that a conservative estimate of 60% of college students are regularly sleep deprived. There is a multitude of reasons for this occurrence as well as a great number of effects. Results of my research, discussed more fully in this report, point to general lifestyle choices by individuals as the major determinant in their level of sleep deprivation.

This report focuses on sleep deprivation of students at ASU. Sleep Deprivation is a significant and growing problem that is affecting people all over the world today. ASU students should be aware of this problem and should try to avoid being deprived of sleep. When researching for this report, a survey was conducted to find out ASU students’ sleeping habits. This was also done to visualize the impact of sleep deprivation on ASU students. From the research I have done, it is clear that ASU students face this as a significant problem.

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There are ways to avoid sleep deprivation and these are discussed further in the report. The major finding is that living a healthy lifestyle and keeping a consistent bedtime is the most effective way to avoid sleep deprivation. ASU students are encouraged to take the information presented into careful consideration and apply it to their own lives.

It continues to grow with the increased pace of life. This report tries to answer the question, “To what extent are ASU students affected by sleep deprivation, and what can be done about it? Audience and Organization According to multiple sources, sleep deprivation affects 40% of Americans and 60% of students nationally. However, this report concentrates on students of ASU. This report will outline what sleep deprivation is, and how it affects college students. It will also clarify why the university and its students should be concerned about this problem. In addition, there will be an explanation of how to determine if students are suffering from sleep deprivation, and advice on how to correct behaviors and sleep well.

What is Sleep Deprivation? Sleep deprivation results from an inadequate amount of sleep. It has been proven to cause a litany of cognitive, physical, and emotional effects including aching muscles, dizziness and nausea, hallucinations, headaches, increased blood pressure, increased risk for diabetes, irritability, memory lapses and loss (Sleep deprivation, 2010). These are just a small portion of problems created by sleep deprivation. Some are minor and can be corrected after one night of good sleep while others can be problems you battle for the rest of your life.

History of Sleep Deprivation People have been losing sleep for as long as man has been sleeping, however the impact of that sleep loss hasn’t been felt significantly enough until recent decades to provoke scientific studies. Given the advancement of technology and machines, so too have increased accidents, many of which can be attributed to sleep deprivation. Research shows that sleep-deprived individuals often have difficulty acting quickly and making good decisions in fast changing scenarios.

In real life situations, the consequences are grave and lack of sleep is said to have been be a contributory factor to a number of international disasters such as Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the Challenger shuttle explosion (The Science of Sleep, 2009). The correlation between sleep deprivation and accidents can be observed in our hospitals as well. According to the Institutes of Medicine, over one million injuries and between 50,000 and 100,000 deaths each year result from preventable medical errors and many of these may be the result of insufficient sleep.

Doctors, especially newly graduated interns, are often expected to work continuous shifts of 24 to 36 hours with little or no opportunity for sleep (Landrigan, et al. , 2004). The ability to prove the extent sleep deprivation plays in medical errors is not simple. For example, a 2004 study led by Dr. Charles Czeisler of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School found that hospitals could reduce the number of medical errors by as much as 36 percent by limiting an individual doctor’s work shifts to 16 hours and reducing the total work schedule to no more than 80 hours per week (Landrigan, et al. 2004).

In addition to hospitals, America’s roadways are a constant reminder of the dangers of driving sleep deprived. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year (NCSDR/NHTSA Expert Panel, 2006).

Why are ASU Students Afflicted? The most significant factors affecting student sleep deprivation are directly related to lifestyle. This includes diet, alcohol and substance abuse, and late night activities. The mind and body work while we sleep to repair and rejuvenate us. This is why diet is so important. Not eating properly can also affect your sleep patterns by creating problems such as obesity, which raises the odds of developing sleep apnea, diabetes, heartburn and related digestive problems that can prevent a sound night’s sleep.

Caffeine is a staple in most people’s diet. Many college students depend on it to get them through the day. I’m sure the booming energy drink market would attest to this. Caffeine can be a valuable resource for many. However, you should not to overdo it during the day and avoid caffeine in the evening hours. Caffeine is artificial energy.

It can give you a boost but at the expense of your body’s adrenal system. This is why people hyped up on caffeine with little sleep often crash hard. It may seem that alcohol will help you sleep since it is a depressant. While this may be true, overuse of alcohol can impair sleep. Alcohol can cause a person to sleep less deeply and have more restless sleep (Doghramji MD, 2005). The use of alcohol as a relaxant will likely only work a few times as the body quickly becomes desensitized, requiring more and more alcohol to accomplish the same sleep-inducing effect. This is why alcohol should never be relied on as a sleep aid.

Additionally, substance abuse of any kind, including alcohol, can alter body chemistry drastically. When your body is not operating normally, sleep will be impacted. Drugs and alcohol cause highs and lows that prevent the body’s natural ability to regulate. Stress and sleep are inextricably linked and can cause a self-perpetuating cycle: If you are stressed, you can’t sleep, and lack of sleep makes you more stressed. The body and brain are not built to endure hours upon hours of stress day in and day out. Unfortunately, today we live at a much faster pace than any generation before us, constantly adding stress to our lives.

The body and brain need time to recuperate and regenerate. Allowing too much stress during the day can make the body forget how to relax, even at night when you’re exhausted from the day’s events (Stress and Sleep Deprivation, 2007). Perhaps the most significant reason for students sleep deprivation is the stimulation available around the clock. For many males and some females this means gaming. Computer, Xbox, and Playstation games provide not only individual play but interconnectedness allowing for others to play with, even when located far away.

More than games for females is the 24/7 access to social media, so not only can they find out what is going on in the world at large but what is going on with their friends and acquaintances through chat services and websites like MySpace and Facebook. Implications to Students Sleep has been proven to influence the ability to think. Consequently, there have been several studies to determine the relationship between sleep and academic achievement. In one such study, Trockel, Barnes, and Egget (2000) examined the effects of many health-related behaviors and variables on first year college students’ grade point averages.

The health-related variables included exercise, eating and sleeping habits, mood states, perceived stress, time management, social support, spiritual and religious habits, number of hours worked per week, gender, and age. “The relationship between sleep habits and higher GPA appears to be the most significant finding of this study and provides strong support for the hypothesis that sleep habits account for some of the variance in first year college students’ GPAs” (Trockel et al. , 2000). Many students who experience academic difficulties do not realize that poor sleep habits may be contributing to their problem” (Brown, Buboltz, ; Soper, 2006).

What all this research concludes is that sleep deprivation has a definite impact on students’ cognitive ability, especially in relation to retention and recall of information. Not only are students more likely to oversleep and miss class, but when they do attend class their capacity to learn is so much lower that it affects their ability to learn and ultimately their grades. Implications to the University

At ASU the six year graduation rate for fiscal year 2009 was 28. 9%, compared to the peer group average rating of 46. 4%, and first year retention rate is only 59. 9% (Rallo, 2010). It is estimated that 40% of college students will leave higher education without getting a degree, with 75% percent of these students leaving within their first two years of college. Freshman class attrition rates are typically greater than any other academic year and are commonly as high as 20-30%. It is hypothesized that this is due in large part to the adjustment of students being on their own for the first time.

They are unable to prioritize and set a schedule and stick to it. Obviously, the dropout of students accounts for a huge revenue loss if you calculate the expected profit to the university simply by the students’ attendance through graduation. Attrition also potentially damages the reputation of an institution, creating long-term implications for attracting new students. Furthermore, groups outside the college often use this information to praise or criticize an institution. Both internal institutional needs and external governmental pressures surrounding retention are growing in scope and importance. Retention is increasingly important to higher education. Because of the rising cost of educating students and maintaining a high-quality faculty and staff, retention is a matter of economic survival.

The U. S. Department of Education emphasized student retention rates when it worked with Congress to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. Data indicate the retention record of most colleges for first- and second-year students is not good. The Department of Education has examined retention policies and ways to use federal money in an incentive fashion to reward programs that work” (DeBerard ; Spelmans, 2004).

Research Methods Methods Used In preparation for this report, I proposed several questions that I found to be important and relevant to the topic. I then decided which way was best to research these questions. I have consulted books and internet sources as well as conducted my own survey to determine the current situation at ASU. The Survey The survey consists of seven questions, mostly related to sleep deprivation, but also to recognize students by age. The responses to the survey questions are quantified from a yes/no perspective to discover the likelihood that students suffer from sleep deprivation and why.

I selected fifty students at random in the MCS computer lab in order to get a random mixture of students. The median age of respondents is 21. An advantage of the survey is that it reveals the percentage of ASU students afflicted with sleep deprivation. A disadvantage is the number of respondents compared to the actual enrollment of ASU; a larger sample would likely reflect more accurate percentages. A copy of the [A1] survey is attached in the appendix. The questions are focused on providing the ability to compare ASU with broad research. In addition, the survey should provide insight to the reasons for sleep deprivation of ASU students.

Graphical interpretations [A2] of survey results are located in the appendix. Findings of Research Are students affected at asu? Through my research I have determined that about 55% of students at ASU are currently suffering from sleep deprivation. This is below the national average of 60% but is still a very real problem. Students at ASU face many threats to a peaceful night of sleep. The deterrents of sleep may not always be avoidable but students and the university should take steps to prevent them when possible.

What follows is interpretation of the survey results. Too Little Sleep 8% of respondents say they are sleeping six hours or less at least three nights a week. This is a clear sign of sleep deprivation. It doesn’t necessarily mean students are in danger of long term affects. I suspect that most students recover their sleep debt over the weekend when they can sleep for large blocks of time. They may be dragging by the end of the week but recover in time to do it all over the next week. It can create a vicious cycle, but for most students it is manageable, at least for a semester at a time. Daytime Behavior Slightly below 50% said they nod off at inappropriate times and 76% said they feel anxious when inactive.

Falling asleep is more common than I assumed it would be but still not as high as it probably should be. This is probably because most professors do not allow students to sleep in class and falling asleep at work is a good way to get fired. I am not surprised at the high percentage of students that feel anxious. They are feeling anxious because their minds and bodies need to rest so much that they are too stressed to be comfortable. Brain Drain Only 12% cited a medical condition as the cause of their poor sleep. This is not surprising since most college students are young and resilient to disease. 4% responded as being emotionally distressed when trying to fall asleep.

College life is stressful. There are so many pressures on students today; taking a full course load, keeping your GPA up, working part-time and full-time for some, taking care of family, and anticipating problems such as finding a job in a down market upon graduation. This is of course a short list and doesn’t come close to covering the many stresses upon the average college student. Conclusion ASU students should take sleep deprivation seriously because it can affect every aspect of their lives.

Sleep deprivation can endanger students and others as evidenced by the number of traffic accidents caused by drowsy driving. Sleep Deprivation can become a self perpetuating cycle and if not corrected can cause serious long-term problems such as diabetes and impaired memory. The findings of my research at ASU fall in line with that of other research. The percentage of students suffering from sleep deprivation at ASU is very close to the national average of 60%. This proves that it is a real problem for Angelo State University and its students.


  1. Brown, F. C. , Buboltz, W. C. , ; Soper, B. (2006). Development and Evaluation of the Sleep Treatment and Education Program for Students. Journal of American College Health , 231-237.
  2. DeBerard, S. , ; Spelmans, G. (2004). Predictors of Academic Achievement and Retention among College Freshmen: A Longitudinal Study. College Student Journal , 66-80.
  3. Doghramji MD, K. (2005). The Effects of Alcohol on Sleep. Retrieved from MedscapeCME: http://cme. medscape. com/viewarticle/497982

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