Interest and Instruction: Improving College Students' Sleep Hygiene
College students often report poor sleep, which has negative implications for their everyday mood, academic performance, and overall health. The best way to improve sleep is to routinely engage in good sleep habits, such as maintaining a regular bedtime and a comfortable sleeping area. The purpose of this study was to examine the relation of sleep-- 17 -specific instruction and interest in such instruction with utilization of good sleep hygiene.
Method: As part of a 15-week sleep-specific course for incoming freshmen, students completed a survey asking participants to report frequency of days they engaged in good sleep habits, such as maintain a regular bed time and avoiding caffeine, during an average week. At the beginning of the study, participants also ranked how interested they were in learning about sleep. Participants (N=20) were primarily female (n=18) and white (n=17). Results: A repeated-measures ANOVA demonstrated that participants’ engagement in good sleep habits improved over the 15-week period (Mtime1=36.48, Mtime2=41.58, Mtime3=41.88, Mtime4=44.10) [F(3,17)=8.806;p=.001]. Furthermore, a repeated measures ANOVA assessing the relation between interest (categorized as low and high) and frequency of good sleep habits indicated a main effect of interest, such that those with moderate interest in sleep reported more good sleep habits (M=44.28) than those with high interest (M=39.24) [F(3, 16)=7.462;p=.002;d=2.14].
Conclusion: Participant sleep hygiene improved over the duration of the study suggesting college students, at risk for poor sleep hygiene, benefit from education about the science of sleep. Moreover, participants with moderate interest in learning about sleep reported more good sleep habits than those with high interest, suggesting that high interest participants might have pre-existing sleep difficulties, triggering their interest, but that education improves sleep habits. As universities work to improve quality of students’ lives and performance, sleep education should be considered an impactful and cost-effective intervention to implement early in students’ academic careers.