The Impossible Dream?

These 29 surprising college student sleep statistics will show why more than 50% of university students suffer from sleep deprivation and daytime sleepiness.

A Student Sitting On Books and Reading

Historically, adults have not been super great at making sure we are getting adequate rest. We work too much and binge-watch too often in what little downtime we have. Entire industries have been built around the premise of helping people get some much-needed rest.


But while us grownups were so busy worrying about our own sleepless nights, an unseen boogie man was crawling out from under our beds. Step onto any college campus today and you will be sure to come face-to-face with a victim of the sweeping sleep deprivation epidemic affecting our college students.

Statistics and studies led us all to believe students were doing just fine. Gone are the days of drunken pledges bombing exams. These days college students are forgoing wild parties and relying on technology to study up and improve their test scores. But despite these promising changes, the kids are not alright. They are exhausted.
Section 1

How Much Sleep Are Students Getting?

Section 2

What Are the Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Students?

Section 3

Why is This Happening?

Section 4

Traditional Coping Mechanisms Don’t Help

Section 5

What Are Schools Doing to Combat Sleep Deprivation?


How Much Sleep Are Students Getting?

Illustration Of a Group Of College Students

In a self-reported University of Arizona study, 23% of athletes reported experiencing fatigue at excessive levels.

[1] The University of Arizona

A study conducted at Brown University concluded female students suffered from insomnia more often than male students. 30% of female respondents reported experiencing insomnia within the past 3 months, compared to 18% of the male respondents.

[2] The Slate

Most college students average between 6-6.9 hours of sleep a night.

[3] University Health Center


What Are the Effects of Sleep Deprivation on College Students?

Student-athletes frequently experience hallucinations and sleep paralysis because their busy schedules often affect their quality of sleep.

[4] American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Studies show sleep loss can hurt academic performance just as much as binge-drinking or drug use.

[5] Reuters
[6] Sleep Health Journal

Sick Man and Woman Sitting on Sofa

Proteins called cytokines are produced less often when people are sleep deprived. Antibodies and cells that fight off infection are also produced in lower numbers. This means tired people are more likely to get sick!

[7] Mayo Clinic

Sleep debt can cause memory problems, mood regulation issues, and poor decision-making. The human body does not adjust to sleep debt.
[8] The Daily Pennsylvanian

Freshmen are more likely to suffer bad grades due to poor sleep and are 14% more likely to drop a class for every day of missed sleep.

[5] Reuters
[6] Sleep Health Journal

Your major plays a factor in how much sleep you get.

Medical majors get the least quality sleep.

[9] American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Don’t pull an all-nighter before your big exam! You're more likely to lower your GPA that way, not improve it.
[9] American Academy of Sleep Medicine

1 in 4 University of Georgia students says sleep loss hurts their academic performance, causing lower grades, missing classwork, or skipped classes.

[3] University Health Center

Unhealthy Food Cravings IllustrationSleep deprivation can cause all kinds of negative side effects like weight gain, a higher body mass index, and more body fat. Some people also lose the ability to tolerate larger amounts of exercise and experience cravings for unhealthy foods.

[10] The University of Rhode Island


Why Is This Happening?

A Group of Students In Class

Students complaining about boring professors have a point! Lectures cause failing grades to increase by 55% as compared to a more engaging learning environment. Kids just fall asleep in class!

[11] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
[12] The Washington Post

Cellphones cause FOMO or the Fear Of Missing Out. Students sleep with their phones under their pillows to avoid missing important calls or texts. They wake up every time the phone goes off and respond while half awake and barely coherent.

[10] The University of Rhode Island

Some experts think our culture of bragging about being tired causes people to not prioritize sleep enough.
[8] The Daily Pennsylvanian

Classes start too early! The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend classes begin no earlier than 8:30 AM.

[13] Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

Irregular sleep patterns – waking up and going to bed at random times – can have the same effects as not getting enough sleep.

[14] Nature

Stress is a key factor in poor sleep quality and some researchers think it affects students more than caffeine or alcohol consumption.

[15] Science Direct

Adolescents and young adults have delayed circadian rhythm preferences, making them literal night owls!

[16] National Center for Biotechnology Information


Traditional Coping Mechanisms Don't Help

Young Man Taking a Nap30-50% of college students take naps but then end up staying awake longer at night, ultimately sleeping less overall.

[3] University Health Center

People who take Adderall to aid cram sessions often experience insomnia and hypervigilance, creating an endless cycle of sleeplessness.

[17] University of California, Davis

Polyphasic sleep does not seem to help students feel more rested or improve grades.

[14] Nature

Sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t always help. It can actually mess up the circadian rhythm even more because the body can only adjust to 2 extra hours of sleep.
[8] The Daily Pennsylvaninan

What Are Schools Doing to Combat Sleep Deprivation?

Illustration of Sleep Class for Students

Penn Med’s sleep specialists educate kids on healthy sleep habits just in time for exam season.


Recommendations include napping less or earlier in the day, cutting back on caffeine, and exercising to stay alert.

[8] The Daily Pennsylvanian

The University of Arizona finds sleep education and tracking increases sleep quality and athletic performance.
[1] The University of Arizona

Harvard students can take a sleep class to learn better sleep hygiene and habits.

[18] The Boston Globe

Baylor University offered students extra credit points for succeeding in “The 8-hour Challenge”. More sleep, better grades, win-win.

[19] Baylor

Cuesta College is advocating a bill that would allow homeless students to safely sleep in their cars in the school parking lot.

[20] The Tribune

Goucher College allowed students living in dorms with no air conditioning to sleep on cots in the campus library.

[21] Baltimore Sun

[1] Intervention Could Help Student-Athletes Sleep, The University of Arizona

[3] Sleep Rocks! …get more of it!, University Health Center

[10] Bedtime story: Study finds sleep-deprived students, The University of Rhode Island

[11] Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

[16] Causes and consequences of sleepiness among college students, National Center for Biotechnology Information

[17] The More You Adderall, the Less You Sleep, University of California, Davis

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