Last year, some 231 SPU student-volunteers were recruited from two introductory courses and two upper-division courses, one of each level in the fields of biology and psychology. These students were then given an eight-page survey that was conducted to assess the sleep habits of college students at Seattle Pacific University and to determine underlying factors that may influence these habits. Brandon Peters, a member of the University Scholars program and an SPU alumnus, spearheaded "Losing Sleep: Lifestyles that Undermine College Success."
The report found that a lack of sleep among students was unusually high and could have devastating consequences. Of the numerous elements of the study, one of the most concerning is the 12.61 percent of students who have fallen asleep while driving. This contributes to 100,000 car crashes and 1,500 deaths annually. The report states "these incidences of sleep deprivation and reduced sleep quality cannot persist at its current levels without devastating consequences."
People in America are reported to be sleeping far less than previous generations, and students are especially susceptible to stress-related sleep behavior issues or sleep deprivation, according to the project’s results. The results showed the average sleeping times to be higher than in previous studies, but also showed a higher occurrence of abnormal sleep behavior.
SPU senior Erin Rapske said when she was a freshmen she would take naps every chance she got.
"I just remember taking every moment I could during the day to take a nap," she said.
Research over the past 30 years has marked a decline in both the quantity and quality of the sleep of the nation’s university students. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, more than 100 million Americans regularly fail to get a "good night’s sleep."
Students often fall short in the quantity-of-sleep category. According to Hill resident Jake Diede, he gets an average of five to six hours a night, but said he is satisfied with the amount.
The survey itself was composed of roughly five sections, developed using published and non-published resources, and designed to expose the peculiarities of sleep habits of university students.
The first section asked the students for a brief history of demographic information and whether they had ever been diagnosed with a psychiatric or sleep-related disorder.
The second section covered the participant’s academic profile and schedule demands, from employment to leisure to church and community service obligations.
Then the questions asked for a more thorough assessment of sleep, both in quantitative and qualitative terms.
The fourth section was about sleep environment and its influence, and was to be answered solely by students living in Campus Housing. These questions asked how the activities of others impacted sleep, how "quiet hours" were enforced and what times they were, and if and what the bedroom was used for other than sleep-related activities.
The fifth and final section was a personality assessment. Based on the Consideration of Future Consequences (CFC) scale, this examines the extent to which individuals consider potential distant outcomes of current behaviors and the extent to which one is influenced by these potential outcomes.
The results were broken into seven categories: CFC, the sleep environment, exercise, regularity of sleep schedules, feeling overwhelmed, sleep quality and GPA.
Higher CFC scores (individuals who are more apt to consider future consequences) are positively correlated with higher GPAs.
As for sleep environment, 61.5 percent agree or strongly agree that they "have been kept up or awakened due to the activities of someone in my room," and 60.96 percent agree or strongly agree that they "have been awakened due to the activities of someone on my floor or in my building." Also, 40.11 percent disagree or disagree strongly with the statement "quiet hours are adequately enforced." Around nine percent of the students reported taking hypnotic drugs to get to sleep.
However, Kinyatta Leonhardt, an SPU previewer from fourth Hill, reported a quiet sleep environment even at an earlier hour. "The quiet hours in Hill were really enforced," she said.
In contrast, sophomore Hill Hall resident Erik Jorgensen said there isn’t a lot of enforcement in this area.
"I don’t think quiet hours are enforced too much, but it is better than last year," he said. "I’m loud every now and then and my PA tells me to be quiet." He said he and his friends are still rather loud even after a reprimand from the PA, but they try to keep it down.
"If kids are noisy, (my roommate and I) try to sleep through it," Jorgensen said.
Only 48.47 percent reported frequently (defined as three or more times per week) engaging in physical activity for the purpose of exercise. Exercise is related to greater satisfaction with sleep, a more regular schedule and a reduction in feelings of being overwhelmed by stress or time pressures.
A regular sleep schedule is related to satisfaction with sleep, the study found. Although SPU students are getting more sleep than what was previously reported (7.89 hours on weeknights; 8.45 on weekend nights) it comes with more unpredictable sleeping schedules on an individual level. For example, 8.23 percent of students are deprived of sleep four or more times a quarter. Over 85 percent of individuals reported different sleeping habits since starting at college.
Diede said his sleeping habits have changed since coming to SPU.
"I stay up later and get up earlier," he said. When he returns home over the breaks, he said, he still stays up as late but finds himself sleeping in a little longer.
As far as college pressure goes, 37.72 percent of SPU students feel overwhelmed by stress three or more times per week. Stress and time pressures are correlated with poor sleep quality and dissatisfaction with sleep.
Opinions as to the quality of sleep varied. More than 58 percent reported they are not satisfied with the amount of sleep they get, and 56.09 percent do not believe they have good sleep habits. Around 52 percent wake up one to two times through the night, and 6.06 percent take more than one hour to fall asleep. It was also found that 16.02 percent of students oversleep and miss class at least once out of every two weeks.
In sleep quality, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (from 0 to 21; the higher the score, the sleepier the person is) average is found to be 7.91. At SPU, 32.03 percent have Epworth scores over 10, suggesting abnormal daytime sleepiness levels.
Abnormal sleeping behaviors, such as those touched off by mononucleosis, insomnia, or unexplained excessive daytime sleepiness, are relatively common in the SPU population, with 64.07 percent having some type of problem in the past year. Of these, 89.86 percent report teeth grinding and/or talking in their sleep, which could relate to stress.
Students involved in the study showed an average of 15.48 credit hours on the quarter system.
Overall, the study shows that sleep patterns are related to a subject’s residence. A majority of students reported that others woke them, a fact that correlated with poor sleep quality and dissatisfaction with sleep. The study suggests improvements in roommate assignments had much to do with similar sleep habits.
The study also placed importance on the purposes of the bedroom space, saying multi-purpose bedrooms are in direct defiance of the sleep hygiene recommendations provided by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
"I sleep a lot better now that I’m in an apartment as opposed to when I was living in the dorms," Rapske said.
Although exercise was reported in a reduction in stress, those who exercised seven or more hours per week got significantly lower grades.
Due to SPU’s block schedule, students often sleep-in every other day to catch up on sleep lost through earlier deprivation. The amount of daytime sleepiness was reported as unusually high, and the sleep that was received was not refreshing to all.
Rapske said that she is, for the most part, satisfied with the amount of sleep she receives now.
"I try to get a good amount of sleep," she said. "With work and school it get’s tiring, but I’ve improved each year."
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Title: Sleep hard to come by in frantic university lifestyle | Author: Lael Halasz | Section: News | Published Date: 2002-11-27 | Internal ID: 3000