College students keep strange hours, but a new study shows that technology is waking them up at night, according to a study by URI assistant professors Sue K. Adams and Tiffani S. Kisler in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.
The two professors head two ongoing studies that examine the impact of technology use on physical and mental health and interpersonal relationships in college students.
Adams and Kisler found texting and cell phone use is affecting important aspects of students’ physical health. In their study of 236 college juniors and seniors, 47 percent reported that they were awakened by text messages to which they responded before falling back asleep.
They also reported that 40 percent of the students answered phone calls during sleep time. Students who use such technology throughout the night were averaging as much as 44 minutes of lost sleep per week. This pattern of sleep interruption showed indicators of other serious issues for students, particularly poor sleep quality, depression, and anxiety.
“At first glance 44 minutes doesn’t seem like much, but combined with the fact that college students are the most sleep deprived population across all age groups, the implications are significant,” Adams said. “More often than not, the interruptions caused by texting come within the first few hours of sleep, which is the most important time for restorative sleep. If students are constantly interrupting their sleep cycle, they place themselves at risk for sleep debt, which can impact multiple areas of their lives, including academic performance.”