Sleep Disorders among College Students: Literature Review

Sleep disorder is a common condition in every society. However, its prevalence among learners have raised concerns among educators and the student community. Researches have established that there is a strong association between sleep disorder and academic performance. Sleep disorder is believed to negatively impact on student’s academic excellence, GPA.

Gaultney (2010), developed a validated sleep disorder questionnaire and surveyed sleep data of academic the year 2007 and 2008. The researcher collected students’ GPAs from academic registrars’ office. The study population included 1,845 college students from Southeastern Public University. Gaultney’s study goal was to determine the prevalence of sleep disorders risk among college students. The research variables included students by age, gender, and their associations GPA.

Sleep disorder is a common challenge in many learning institutions. 23% of Americans have reported the sleep challenges (Gaultney, 2010). The figure is closely comparable to 27% found by Gaultney during the survey. Prevalence of disease disorder remained consisted with other past researchers, the finding that 16% of the students were at risk of narcolepsy is considered high since most researches that narcolepsy affect only <1% of the adults. The main cause of sleep disorder, according to the study is lack of enough sleep. Students at risk for OSA formed a significant representation of those with a GPA < 2.0 (Gaultney, 2010). Similar GPA results were common among learners with CRDs, insomnia, among other sleep related challenges. The study also showed that that white student female African Americans were the most at risk sleep disorder population and with lower GPA.

Gaultney among other researchers, successfully demonstrated that a significant number of students are at risk of sleep disorder and the condition affect their performance, GPA. Sleep disorder predict learners GPA, and their interest to continue with learning. An intervention is necessary to help learners gain better health and higher academic performance.

In 2012, Onyper, Thacher, Gilbert, and Gradess conducted a path analysis to determine relationship between sleep, class start times, circadian preference, sleep, and academic performance among college-aged adults. The researchers argued that college students who had late classes tend to sleep longer, hardly experience daytime sleepiness, and were often in class. When sleep time was adjusted according to individual student’s need, those who woke up early and attended early performed better than those who had their classes later in the day. They also determined that students who had later classes abused their available time.

  The study result corroborated earlier literatures conducted among middle and high school students. When chronotype tests were determined, adults with later circadian preference showed diminished daytime function. It was also showed that academic performance relates to class times, with early attendees showing better grades. The study concludes that sleep and class attendance times influence students’ performance and behavior.

 In 2010, Gilbert and Weaver tested hypothesis on whether sleep deprivation or lack of quality sleep associated with low academic performance among depressed students. The researchers adopted Sleep Quality score (GSQ) on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and grade point average to test the hypothesis. The researchers also determined the effectiveness of intervention strategies such as preventive (outreach), and remedial (assessment and treatment) undertaken by university and college students.

The study’s negative correlation between Global Sleep Quality score (GSQ) on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and grade point average goes with the hypothesis that poor sleep quality impact negatively on academic performance among nondepressed students. Gilbert and Weaver (2010) concluded that non-depressed university and college students having poor sleep quality demonstrate lower GPAs as compared to non-depressed university and college students with perfect sleep quality.

Prevalence of sleep pattern is a common health challenge across the world. To determine the correlates of a good sleep, Becker, Adams, Orr, and Quilter, (2008) adopted salutogenic; health origins framework in their study. The research was conducted with data from the National College Health Assessment which comprised 54,111 participants from 71 institutions.

 The research data showed that more students experiences sleep disorder (n ~ 10,346), as compared to those who do not (n ~ 6,333). The result demonstrated that males and females who were considered to have "good sleep" most likely engaged in regular physical activity,  had better Body Mass Index (BMI), were less exhausted, and they performed better academically. Additionally, male sleepers showed low anxiety levels and less back pain. Female sleeps tended to have better relationships, better social behavior, and less broken bones. The study effectively showed that good sleep and exercise promotes good health and better academic performance.

Edens (2006) adopted American College Health Association’s National College

Health Assessment survey tool to tests whether lack of sleep affects the academic motivation. The researcher determined particularly sleep interrelation with self-efficacy. Among the sample population of n=377, 159 (42%), are affected by excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). According to the researcher, students experiencing EDS are motivated by performance goals than mastery. Students experiencing EDS have decreased self-efficacy and procrastination as compared to those having full sleep. The study tested positive that lack of sleep negatively influence academic motivation.

Many researchers have established that there is association between sleep quality, well-being, and lifestyle. In 2013, Lopes, Milheiro, and Maia used the same variables to determine whether academic performance is influence by quality sleep, well-being, and lifestyle. The researcher adopted Pittsburgh Sleep Quality questionnaire tool, and an author-designed questionnaire that reflected upon wellbeing, lifestyle, and performance. In conclusion, the researchers effectively demonstrated that poor sleep has negative impact on college students’ academic performance, lifestyle, and well-being.


Becker, C., Adams, T., Orr, C., & Quilter, L. (2008). Correlates of quality sleep and academic performance. NASPA Journal, 40(2), The Health Educator pp. 82-89.

Edens, K. (2006). The relationship of university students' sleep habits and academic motivation. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 43(3), 432-445.

Gaultney, J. (2010). The prevalence of sleep disorders in college students: impact on academic performance. Journal of American College Health, 59(2), 91-97.

Gilbert, S., & Weaver, C. (2010). Sleep quality and academic performance in university students: A wake-up call for college psychologists. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 24(4), 295-306.

Lopes, E., Milheiro, I., & Maia, A. (2013). Sleep quality in college students: A study about the contribution of lifestyle, academic performance and general well-being. Sleep Medicine, 14, e185.

Onyper, S., Thacher, P., Gilbert, J., & Gradess, S. (2012). Class start times, sleep, and academic performance in college: A path analysis. Chronobiology International, 29(3), 318-335.