Sleep Deprivation in College Students as Detrimental to GPA and Class Participation as Marijuana Use and Binge Drinking


Any college student with a poor sleeping habit may want to correct that soon, as a new study suggests it has adverse effects for academic performance on par with marijuana use and binge drinking.

According to a new study, published in the journal SLEEP, getting to bed too late and not sleeping enough both caused students to get worse grades and to drop out of classes. The researchers took data from more than 43,000 students included in the 2009 American College Health Association's National College Health Assessment (NCHA).

"Sleep problems are not systematically addressed in the same way that substance abuse problems are," Dr. Roxanne Prichard, an associate professor of psychology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, said in a press release.  "For colleges and universities, addressing sleep problems early in a student's academic career can have a major economic benefit through increased retention."

She said most college freshmen are independent for the first time in their lives and staying up late is something they can see as harmless. Prichard told the Huffington Post younger college students are also more likely to want to stay up late because of their age. Known as a "delayed phase," younger college students can be prone to not feeling sleepy until after midnight, but then experience difficulty waking up.

While marijuana use and binge drinking can coincide with lack of sleep, the two were already known to inhibit academic performance. Now the researchers say that losing sleep, or poor sleep habits, are enough to affect GPA and class participation on their own. The researchers also made sure to take into account existing factors like clinical depression, anxiety and chronic health issues.

"Sleep really isn't systematically approached in a way that could have major economic benefits to both the students and the universities in terms of increased retention," Prichard told the HP. "I don't think sleep problems are showing up on the questionnaire intake forms for health services, and that could be explaining a lot of the other problems that you see showing up.

"Recurrent illness could be sleep problems."

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