24 hours a day just doesn’t seem like enough as a college student.
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You spend the majority of your time attending long 3-hour lectures, trekking back and forth between the buildings on campus, and studying until the sun comes up.
You barely have enough time to squeeze in a few workouts a week. But since you’re getting everything done and still getting a little sleep each night, you may assume that you handle the sleep deprivation quite well.
However, a lack of sleep can ruin your performance in the gym and in the classroom. And it’s actually a serious problem among college students in America.
So, here are 31 statistics about sleep deprivation in college students.
Sleep Problems in University Students
- 11% of American college students have little to no trouble sleeping while another 73% struggle to fall and stay asleep every now and then.
- An American College Health Association survey released in 2007 discovered that about 40% of college students felt unrested five or more times per week.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 35% of American adults don’t get enough sleep.
- College students majoring in the medical field struggle the most with sleep quality.
- Naps lead to a later bedtime and less sleep in about 30 to 50% of college students.
- The Epworth Sleepiness Scale describes a person’s likelihood of having narcolepsy – a condition characterized by falling asleep suddenly or having trouble staying awake.
- When a college student is considered a “night owl,” this usually means falling asleep 2 hours later than what’s considered average.
- The stress of beginning and adjusting to college impacts sleep quality greatly.
These statistics are a little troubling, especially because college is usually the first time that teenagers will be living on their own. There’s really no transitional period between being in a structured high school program and going to college.
But these statistics aren’t really that surprising given this lack of transition.
The major benefit of high school is that it’s as straightforward as it could possibly be. You go to school five days a week at the same time every single day, you have a consistent stream of assignments and homework, and you legally have to go.
College is a whole different ball game.
You might go to class for a few hours 5 days a week or you might have all of your classes piled up into 2 days. Many college professors don’t even take attendance, so not showing up really won’t impact your grade at the time.
Technically, you don’t have to go to class if you don’t want to.
Add on the fact that college is loaded with brand new experiences that all new college students want to try and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. There are fraternities and sororities, there are clubs for just about every niche, and there are parties.
Sleep is often the last thing that you think about when you’re in college.
And when you aren’t getting enough sleep, you fall asleep whenever you can in order to “catch up” – which actually seems to be doing more harm than good. The only solution is cutting back on activities and gatherings that you’ve been waiting 18+ years to finally be involved with.
In some cases, you’re caught between having a social life and performing well academically. It’s a tough choice that many college students don’t think they have to make. For most, it’s hard to find that middle-ground when college students aren’t even completely developed mentally.
How Does Lack of Sleep Affect College Students?
- According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there’s an 80% greater risk of a 16 to 24-year-old getting into an accident as a result of drowsy driving.
- A University of Arizona study revealed that about 23% of college-level athletes suffer from extreme fatigue.
- Every time a freshman student sleeps poorly, there’s a 14% greater chance that they’ll drop a college course.
- Dr. Lawrence Epstein – a Sleep HealthCenters medical director – claims that college students who sleep for less than 6 hours a night for two weeks straight are just as likely to struggle as somebody who doesn’t sleep for 48 straight hours.
- Dr. Clete A. Kushida – a professor in behavioral sciences and psychiatry at Stanford University – states that academic performance in college students is affected by much more than how much sleep a student gets – it also comes with an inconsistent sleep schedule and lower quality sleep.
- Sleep deprivation in college students can negatively impact the functioning of the immune system, making sickness more common.
- A majority of college students who are sleep deprived give up sleep to finish incomplete homework assignments.
You’ve been sleep-deprived at some point in your life. Maybe you only experienced a little bit of grogginess, trouble waking up in the morning, or a little irritability the first few hours of your day.
As a kid, you just plan to go to bed earlier the next night.
The problem is that a lack of sleep in college isn’t so easy to fix. That’s because it also impacts your academic performance, your social relationships, and even the pursuit of the dreams you have once you graduate.
Look at the statistics.
Every time you skip a college class, you’re more likely to drop a college class. And you know that dropping a college course means you’ll have to retake it during another semester.
That means you might actually be adding on to the time it takes to earn your degree. And that can be extremely hard to deal with if you’re already struggling with the transition and finding the motivation to go to class.
You might end up in a never-ending cycle. But what we also learn from these statistics is that it’s not “no sleep” that’s making such a big difference. It’s actually not getting enough sleep.
Even depriving yourself of one or two hours of sleep per night is basically the same as not sleeping for 2 days straight. But it just doesn’t seem like you have enough hours in the day when you’re in college and trying to shove everything into your schedule.
So in a way, you might be able to justify skipping out on sleep altogether since any amount of sleep deprivation will impact you anyway. If that’s the case, you might not even realize that you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Additionally, lack of sleep is often correlated with weight gain. Your body often confuses sleep deprivation with hunger causing you to reach for a donut or a high-calorie coffee for a quick boost, exacerbating existing bad student diet habits.
Related: 15 Sad College Dining Meal Plan Statistics (Rising Costs)
Importance of Sleep for College Students
- A Brown University study determined that insomnia is more likely to impact female college students – in a 3 month period, about 30% of female students suffered through bouts of insomnia while only 18% of male students felt the same.
- Sleep plays a vital role in maintaining several areas of health – including maintaining a healthy immune system and energy levels as well as improving thinking processes, memory capacity, and mood.
- According to several recent studies, not getting enough high-quality sleep can impact your ability to create and form new memories.
- There’s a direct link between how much a college student sleeps on a nightly basis and how much stress they’re undergoing.
Sleep is obviously important so that you feel well-rested when you wake up in the morning. But the importance of sleep clearly goes a lot further than that, as you can see in this group of statistics.
Not getting enough sleep can slowly destroy every part of your body. That includes your brain (think about student mental health) and how it functions as well as your immune system and your likelihood of getting sick.
Here’s how that can take a toll on your college performance.
When you’re sleep-deprived, your brain doesn’t work the way it should. You’re unable to make memories and even think properly – this can make it hard to focus in class or truly understand what was in the lecture.
You begin to depend on memorization instead of taking the time to understand the topics.
Now, this might not cause you to absolutely bomb your next big exam. But when you finally graduate from college and need to use the information you learned in your major, you might not really have an in-depth understanding of it.
You aced the test, but you didn’t really understand what you learned. And now you’re in a career and feel unprepared because of a lack of sleep a few nights in college.
But that’s not even the worst part.
When you’re not getting enough sleep, it might feel like you’re just going through the motions of life and college, in general. And when you finally realize that you need more sleep in order to improve your brain and your immune system, you’ll find it’s hard to actually fall asleep.
Sleep and Academic Performance with College Students
- The bi-annual University of Georgia health survey found that 25% of college students have seen negative academic effects as a result of sleep deprivation – this led to an increased risk of missing important due dates, earning lower grades, or even dropping courses.
- Staying up until sunrise to cram for a college exam is actually linked to lower test scores and GPAs.
- The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) discovered that a combination of high-quality sleep and a study routine is the most effective way of improving academic performance.
- A lack of sleep on a nightly basis causes about 12% of college students to fall asleep during class time 3 or more times per month.
These statistics can be taken either positively or negatively.
If you’re able to get enough sleep as a college student, then there’s a pretty good chance that you have a solid GPA and you’re truly understanding what’s going on in class. But if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, you’re overtired and still not thriving.
What’s most disappointing is that these studies prove that most college students are actually trying to succeed, as seen in the number of all-nighters that college students seem to be pulling. That means you might be doing more harm than good without even realizing it.
The good news is that we also learned what students could be doing instead. Rather than spending 8 or more hours spending the entire night studying for the big test tomorrow, sleep instead. Focus on eating a high-quality breakfast and actually studying well before your big test.
There are actually a few benefits to that, honestly.
First off, you can do a little bit of studying immediately after class in order to see if you really understood what you learned in your lecture. But this also allows you to keep important material fresh in your mind, so acing the test won’t even require you to cram.
The night before should be about a quick review and somewhat of a refresher.
Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly something that brand new college students can fix if they’ve never been taught good studying techniques in their previous 12+ years of schooling. That means college students have to teach themselves how to study so late in the game.
But there’s one other thing that makes a lack of sleep so detrimental to academic performance – the fact that your course grade might be only made up of a few grades. So even failing one test during the semester could ruin your chances of getting a final grade of an A or a B.
And this lack of success might cause your motivation to absolutely disappear.
What is the average amount of sleep for college students?
A good portion of college students – somewhere between 70% and 96% of them – are getting fewer than 8 hours of sleep every night. Most college students are getting closer to that 6 to 7-hour range for nightly sleep.
There’s evidence that college students that are more engaged in school activities are likely to experience the greatest sleep deprivation. This also comes down to how much schoolwork and studying needs to be done.
Yet, this data doesn’t reflect the average amount of sleep by college majors. There’s evidence that a mere 4% of those majoring in architecture get at least 7 hours of sleep nightly with a majority of these students pulling all-nighters at least 3 times a month.
What percentage of college students are sleep deprived?
The guidelines for diagnosing insomnia suggest that sleeping 6 hours a night or fewer meets the criteria for this condition. Based on that, about 60% of college students are getting poor quality sleep while 7.7% of them could be diagnosed with some form of insomnia.
Yet, sleep deprivation doesn’t seem to be as big of an issue in college students across the globe. In fact, a 2013 study concluded that American college students get the least amount of sleep among all college students.
How much sleep do college students need?
That really depends on the college student, what they’re majoring in, and how much quality sleep they’re able to get. In most cases, college students would be best prepared for the classroom with between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night.
Yet, you might want to bump up how much sleep you’re getting if you feel overtired or as if sleep deprivation is impacting your mood. If that’s the case, you might want to set aside as much as 10 hours for sleep at night.
Is 7 hours of sleep enough for a college student?
If you’re getting good-quality sleep every night, then you might be able to get away with 7 hours of sleep each night. Since most college students are averaging between 6 and 7, that means you only have to set aside a little extra time to make this a reality.
The problem is you might not be able to find more than 7 hours a night to actually get your recommended amount of sleep. That’s especially the case if you’re involved in college athletics, attend social gatherings, and spend a good amount of time studying.
Most people know that sleep is important. But not many people seem to realize just how important it really is when it comes to being a functional adult and college student.
Sleep deprivation will make it difficult to focus in class and earn the grades that you’re hoping for. That much is clear since you’ve probably already pulled an all-nighter at least once before and were less than impressed by the grade you earned.
At the same time, sleep deprivation can be detrimental to your performance in the gym.
That’s because your body actually repairs and builds muscle while you’re asleep. So depriving yourself of the much-needed 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night might actually be slowing your gains and lowering your performance at the gym causing you to resort to poor workout habits or relying on the equipment you don’t need yet like wrist wraps or weightlifting belts.
Then, you also have to consider the energy factor. Not getting enough sleep will drain you physically, mentally, emotionally, and every other way possible.
So if you want to keep making gains, you need to be sleeping well and for long enough.