Tag Archives: college

Two-thirds of college students are struggling with lack of sleep, poor sleep quality

The students are not all right, new research reports. According to the findings, around two-thirds of college students experience poor sleep quality, which affects their academic performance and can lead to the development of mental health issues.

Image credits Mohamed Hassan.

College has definitely been an enjoyable part of my life, but sleeping well was not really part of the deal. I think most of us can empathize with that statement. And college students enrolled today would likely say the same.

A new study working with a sample of 1,113 college-age students enrolled in university full-time reports that two-thirds are experiencing poor sleep quality. The data further shows that students reporting depressive symptoms are almost four times as likely to suffer from poor sleeping habits. Although female students were more likely to have trouble getting enough rest overall, poor sleep can lead to a number of health complications across the board and impair students’ ability to perform academically.

Sleeping in class

“Sleep disorders are especially harmful for college students because they’re associated with several negative effects on academic life,” says lead author Dr. Paulo Rodrigues from the Faculty of Nutrition, Federal University of Mato Grosso, Brazil. “These include failures in attention and perception, high absenteeism rate, and sometimes dropping out of the course”.

The study surveyed 1,113 undergraduates and postgraduates (aged 16 to 25) who were enrolled at the Federal University of Mato Grosso in Brazil. Participants were asked about their sleep quality, EDS, socioeconomic status, and their body mass index (BMI) was also assessed.

The authors say their findings raise an alarm about the fact that stressors associated with college life, such as heavy course demands, put students at an increased risk of developing sleeping disorders. In turn, such disorders pose a genuine threat to their academic performance and overall health. Universities, the authors conclude, should take steps to promote healthy sleep habits among their students, and take extra steps to safeguard their mental health.

Over half (55%) of the students enrolled in the study reported having issues with excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). This was more prevalent among female students overall. These 55% of students as a group were almost twice as likely to report feeling moderate to high levels of stress, and of exhibiting signs of depression.

The authors warn stressors, such as course demands, make college students vulnerable to sleep disorders which in turn affect academic performance and health. They’re calling on universities to do more to promote positive sleep habits and good mental health.

“The university environment offers greater exposure to factors that may compromise sleep habits such as academic stress and the demands of social life. It’s crucial to evaluate and monitor sleep habits, mental health, and the quality of life of students to reduce the risk of developing other chronic diseases,” Dr. Rodrigues adds. “University managers should plan the implementation of institutional actions and policies. This is to stimulate the development of activities that promote good sleep habits and benefit students’ mental health.”

Among the factors that make students likely to lose sleep include living away from home, on their own terms, for the first time in their lives; the use of stimulants such as coffee to impair sleep, and an erratic bedtime schedule. The same factors also increase the likelihood of students experiencing poor quality sleep even on days where they do get enough time to rest. On average, the participants of this study slept an estimated seven hours per day, compared to what is considered the ideal amount for adults, of nine hours per day.

The authors note that the issues of EDS prevalence and poor sleep among university students have been investigated and documented previously, but the link between these and stress or depression remained poorly understood. In addition, the study highlights a link between poor sleep quality and the ability of students to perform academically. Students enrolled in biological and health sciences were more likely to be affected, as were those enrolled in social and human sciences.

Despite this, the study cannot point to the exact mechanism that links sleep disturbance with depression, in the sense that it cannot tell if one causes the other or vice-versa. The authors note that further research is needed to understand this dynamic.

The paper “Poor sleep quality, excessive daytime sleepiness and association with mental health in college students” has been published in the Annals of Human Biology.

Humor done right helps in the classroom, 99% of students report. Bad humor hurts

When in doubt, crack open a funny one.

Shadow joke.

Image credits Hans Braxmeier.

Science classrooms stand to benefit from humor, new research suggests. This first-of-its-kind study revealed that humor can have a positive impact on students’ ability to learn, but also a negative one if wielded improperly. Luckily, the team also identified which kind of jokes go over smoothly and which risk offending students.

The ‘Ha-ha’ factor

Humor can help lighten the mood and help students establish rapport with their instructors. The study, penned by researchers from the Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences, found that students appreciate when instructors tell jokes in science class. Female and male students, however, differ on what topics they find funny or offensive.

The team surveyed students from 25 college science courses on their perceptions of instructor humor. Out of the total of 1,637 respondents, 99% said they appreciate instructor humor and feel it improves the overall experience of college. Many also said it helps decrease stress, enhance the relationship between students and the instructor, and remind them what was taught in class.

It came as a surprise, the team admits.

“I went into [this study] thinking that maybe we shouldn’t be joking in the classroom, but I left the study thinking that instructors should use humor as a way to better connect with students,” said Sara Brownell, associate professor in the school and senior author of the paper.

“But, as might seem obvious, we need to be careful with what we’re joking about because we found the topics that instructors are joking about can have different effects on different students.”

With great humor, however, also comes great chance to offend somebody.

The good news is that lukewarm jokes — those that students don’t actually find funny — won’t do any damage; such jokes don’t change the students’ attention to course content or their relationship with the instructor, the team reports. The bad news is that if an instructor tells a joke that students find both unfunny and offensive, they can seem less relatable and make students pay less attention, according to over 40% of respondents. The effect seems to be more pronounced on female students, the team adds.

As a group, male and female students will also laugh at different jokes — and they’ll be offended by different jokes, too. In the survey, science students were presented with a list of hypothetical topics that a professor could joke about and asked to rate how they feel about each.

Male students were more likely to find jokes told by the instructor about gender, sexual orientation, religious identity, and race funny. Female students were more likely to find these same hypotheticals offensive. Both, however, found jokes about science, college, and television to be palatable.

“There were 23 subjects that males were more likely than females to report that they might find funny, including all 14 subjects related to social identities,” the paper reads. “However, there was only one subject, food puns, that females were more likely than males to report that they might find funny

“More and more studies are starting to paint a picture that the classroom environment is really important for student learning,” Brownell explains. “Science classrooms and the instructors teaching the science are typically described by students as boring, unapproachable and difficult. So, science instructors who try to be funny can create better learning environments, as long as they are not offensive.”

The authors suggest that instructors weave humor into their course, but that they pay attention to what kind of jokes they crack. “Is it a joke about cute animals? Probably OK.”, says co-author Katelyn Cooper”.A pun about science? Probably OK.”

The study is the product of a collaboration between the team and 16 students (graduate and undergraduates) enrolled in a class focusing on biology education research. The entire class worked on the project for one semester, acting as investigators — formulating the initial research idea, collecting and analyzing data, and editing the final manuscript.

The paper “To be funny or not to be funny: Gender differences in student perceptions of instructor humor in college science courses” has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Kids everywhere, rejoyce – science says you should get those “5 more minutes, mom!”

A recent study performed by researchers working at the University of Oxford, Harvard Medical School and the University of Nevada suggests that the current school and university start times have a damaging effect on the learning and health of students.

Later starting hours for school and college could lead to better academic results and better overall health for students. It would also be awesome.
Image via xplodemag

Adolescents today face a widespread chronic health problem: sleep deprivation. Although society often views sleep as a luxury that ambitious or active people cannot afford, research shows that getting enough sleep is a biological necessity, as important to good health as eating well or exercising.

Drawing on the latest research in the field of pillow-and-blanket face times, the authors calculated the best time for students to attend courses, sorted by age.

Results show start times should be 08:30 or later at age 10; 10:00 or later at 16; and 11:00 or later at 18. Adopting these start times would protect attendees from short sleep duration, chronic sleep deprivation and the health complications associated with them.

The findings tap into recent insight regarding circadian rhythms -also know as “the body clock“, the mechanism that makes us jet-lagged – and of the genes associated with governing this daily cycle every 24 hours. It tells our body when it’s nappy time and when it’s wakey time, makes us sleepy at night and keeps us pumped up during the day.

Teens are among those least likely to get enough sleep; while they need on average 9 and a 1/4 hours of sleep per night for optimal performance, health and brain development, teens average fewer than 7 hours per school night by the end of high school, and most report feeling tired during the day, acording to Wolfson & Carskadon, 1998.

The main culprits are poor teen sleep habits that do not allow for enough hours of quality sleep; hectic schedules with afterschool activities and jobs, homework hours and family obligations; and a clash between societal demands and biological changes that put most teens on a later sleep-wake clock; during adolescence, our inherent circadian rhythms start to de-synchronize with those imposed by the typical working day – early bird and all that.

Circadian rhythms determine our optimum hours of work and concentration, and they shift almost 3 hours later during this period. These genetic changes in sleeping patterns were used to determine start times that are designed to optimize learning and health.

Adopting later starting times for school and college would help improve both academic performance and students’ health, according to the study. It’s not just wishful teen thinking, either: the US Department of Health has recently published an article in favor of changing the start times for Middle and High Schools.

Corresponding author Paul Kelley (Honorary Clinical Research Associate, Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, University of Oxford) will be presenting “Time: the key to really understanding our lives” at the British Science Festival on Tuesday 8 September.

Captain obvious presents his 5 favorite studies from 2009


It’s been a busy year indeed, especially with the LHC doing it’s thing again, Hubble was repaired and there was a lot of medical research being done, even with more money being invested in advertising than research. However, last year was also remarkable for the… not so remarkable studies, to say the least. In that line, here are the best ‘Duh!’ studies that took place in 2009.

Coed dorms fuel sex and drinking


That’s right folks, coed dorms are way more fun than regular ones
I mean, coed dorms are bad, encouraging unhealthy habits that might be avoided otherwise. Detailed in the Journal of American College Health, this stunning discovery sheds new light … aww c’mon, everybody knows it: they’re the party center of the universe ! And even if nothing else, there’s hormone filled students, boys and girls, living literally meters away from each other – things are bound to happen. Nice pick, captain.

Sweets taste better when you’re high

weedzIn a study that’s completely unrelated to the previous one (cross my heart), Yuzo Ninomiya of Kyushu University in Japan spent quite a lot of time to find out what 1 in 3 students could have told you on the spot: sweets taste absolutely great after you’ve smoked some pot. What the study basically found was that “endocannabinoids both act in the brain to increase appetite and also modulate taste receptors on the tongue to increase the response to sweets”; endocannabinoids also make it impossible to read that sentence.

Large quantities of red and processed meat are bad for you


Yeah, that double hamburger is a cruel mistress, isn’t it ? Studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine announced that consuming large quantities of such products can cause a huge number of problems, such as, well… death.

“For overall mortality, 11 percent of deaths in men and 16 percent of deaths in women could be prevented if people decreased their red meat consumption” the researchers wrote.

High heels lead to foot pain


In what is the mother of all no-brainers, a study published in Arthritis Care & Research concluded that woman wearing high heels are more likely to report pain their feet. I really don’t want to add anything more here except for the fact that as far as I’m concerned, high heels are a useless fashion trifle, and have nothing at all to do with beauty.

Child with depressive parents are affected


Unfortunately, the effect parents have on their children is underestimated and often neglected (at least partially); few things can be worse than having a depressed parent, and kids have an innate sense that allows them to feel this kind of things, even though you may try to hide it. Among others, the child tends to feel more responsible, which puts more pressure on him, more alone, and have lower expectations.