Sleep quantity and variability during the first semester at university: implications for well-being and academic performance

Psychol Health Med. 2022 Apr;27(4):931-936. doi: 10.1080/13548506.2021.1971724. Epub 2021 Aug 31.

Abstract

Research has demonstrated the importance of sleep quality for university students, although work is limited with respect to how sleep during the first semester of school impacts well-being and academic outcomes. The current study sought to examine the role of sleep quantity and variability over the first semester of university on GPA and happiness. Students (n = 97) from a first-semester psychology course completed weekly assessments of sleep and well-being (happiness and anxiety) for 15 weeks, and they gave permission for researchers to collect their GPA and SAT data from the registrar. Average weekly sleep quantity was associated with greater weekly happiness and less anxiety. Weekly sleep variability was associated with lower happiness and more anxiety. Even when accounting for sleep quantity and initial start-of-semester measures, sleep variability predicted worse GPA and happiness for students at the end-of-semester. In summary, sleep consistency may be an important target for health professionals working within the university setting. This study contributes to the literature on the importance not only of sleep but also of sleep consistency, during a major life transition.

Keywords: academic performance; college students; sleep quality; sleep variability.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Performance*
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Humans
  • Sleep
  • Students / psychology
  • Universities