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Making it Personal: Using Personal Salience of Health Behaviors as a Means to Improve Sleep
College students obtain far less sleep than is recommended and often report that environmental factors such as noisy residence halls impair the sleep they do get. Insufficient and poor quality sleep put college students at risk for suboptimal academic performance, poor neurocognitive functioning, and accidents. The purpose of this study was to examine whether increasing participant accountability and salience of personal health behaviors, including sleep, would improve sleep variables.METHODS: As part of a larger study, college students completed the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) in addition to a battery of other health related questionnaires both at the beginning and the end of an academic term lasting 10 weeks. Participants were 34 college students enrolled at a small liberal arts college and were recruited from psychology courses. The sample was 57% female, 88% white, and was 19.74±1.05 years in age. RESULTS: Participant self-reported sleep quality, with lower scores indicating better sleep quality, improved from Time 1 (M = 1.20, SD = 0.79) to Time 2 (M = 0.97, SD = 0.58) [F (1, 32) = 4.57; p < 0.05]. Ratings of sleep disturbance, with lower scores indicating less sleep disturbance, also improved from Time 1 (M = 1.14, SD = 0.43) to Time 2 (M = 0.94, SD = 0.49) [F (1, 32) = 7.78; p < 0.05]. CONCLUSION: This study suggests that simply asking college students to report on their health behaviors over time might be sufficient to improve sleep quality and reduce sleep disturbance. Follow-up studies should include objective measures; however, utilizing personal accountability and increasing personal salience of health promoting behaviors would be a low-cost, high impact method to improve both sleep and overall health for people of all ages.