Living La Vida Loca in College

Sleeping and drinking too much leads to lower grades

(RxWiki News) College students living on their own for the first time can live life a little too fully. It appears they haven't quite found a balance yet.

A recent study from St. Lawrence University verifies what parents paying college tuition have already discovered: daytime sleepiness, lower grades and too much drinking occur when students have late start times in college.

"College students should schedule 8:00 am classes to promote healthy living."

Pamela Thacher, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Psychology at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. observes that later class start times seemed to change the choices students make: They sleep longer and drink more. Thacher supposes that drinking more alcohol, which is known to disrupt sleep, may diminish the quality of  sleep the students will get.

Thacher and her research team studied 253 college students. Participants completed cognitive tasks as well as a one-week retrospective sleep diary, questionnaires regarding sleep, class schedules, substance use and mood.  GPA of the students was also collected from university records and self-reports.

Results also indicated that students were trying to catch up on sleep on the weekends with later rise times and longer sleep durations. The average total sleep  was eight hours a night.

The authors noted that these results for college students are much different from previous studies of school start times in middle and high school. Those studies indicate several benefits of later school start times; decrease in truancy, improvement in mood and promotion of learning.

This paper was presented at SLEEP 2011, the meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS). Results are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed professional journal.

Review Date: 
June 15, 2011