Objective: Three independent lines of inquiry have found associations between alcohol use and academic performance, sleep and academic performance, and alcohol use and sleep. The present study bridges this research by examining the links among alcohol use, sleep, and academic performance in college students.
Method: Personal interview surveys were conducted with a random sample of 236 students (124 women) at a liberal arts college. The interviews measured alcohol consumption, gender, academic class, weekday and weekend bedtimes and rise times, and daytime sleepiness; 95% of the sample granted permission to obtain grade-point average (GPA) and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores from official college records.
Results: Ordinary least squares regressions showed that alcohol consumption was a significant predictor of four sleep patterns: the duration of sleep, the timing of sleep, the difference between weekday and weekend nighttime sleep hours (oversleep), and the difference between weekday and weekend bedtimes (bedtime delay). Women and students with late sleep schedules were more apt to report daytime sleepiness. SAT score was the strongest predictor of GPA. However, gender, alcohol consumption, sleep duration, and daytime sleepiness also were significant predictors when other variables were controlled. In addition to alcohol's direct relationship with GPA, mediational analysis indicated that alcohol had indirect effects on sleepiness and GPA, primarily through its effect on sleep schedule.
Conclusions: The findings show how alcohol use among college students is related to sleep-wake patterns and further support the connection between alcohol use and grades.