Are College Students Actually Sleeping MORE Than We Thought?

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Parties, term papers, and a onslaught of reading assignments mixes up a recipe of natural disasters when it comes to sleep habits for college student — and research has showed sleep among this demographic is not good. Previous studies have suggested as many as 70 percent of college student get insufficient sleep. But new data released today that investigated sleep habits of college students who wear Jawbone’s UP fitness trackers suggests otherwise.

Jawbone looked at sleep data regarding college students who wear the company’s UP fitness trackers and found that the students actually average only over 7 hours of sleep per night on weekdays and 7.38 hours on weekend nights. The data comes from 18,498 students from 137 schools across the country who wear the device — and accounts for 1.44 million nights of sleep data logged by those students between 2013 and 2016.

The topics all identified themselves as being between the ages of 18 and 22 and attending a college or university — and they also all agreed to have their sleep data anonymously sent to Jawbone for research.

On average, girls went to bed earlier than their male peers and sleep less( 22 minutes less on weeknights and 28 minutes less on weekend nights ), according to the data.

Here are four more illuminating phases about the research :

1. Students at high-achieving schools tended to have subsequently bedtimes

The data analytics team at Jawbone was also able to separate out sleep the necessary data for each school with UP wearers reporting data. They compared that data to the U.S. News and World Report’s 2016 college ranking data and found that the tougher the school, according to the U.S. News ranking, the later the average student at that school goes to bed.

Previous unrelated research has furthermore suggested students with night owl tendencies( i.e. those who went to bed subsequently and woke up subsequently) had higher GPAs and scored higher on mental reasoning exams than their peers who went to bed earlier and woke up earlier — though the students in that analyze were all between 12 and 16 years old.

2. Still, 7 hours still may not be enough sleep

While the data from Jawbone may be encouraging, considering that previous research has found that some students sleep only 5.7 hours a night on average. But Neil Kline, a sleep physician and director of the American Sleep Association, points out that even this higher number isn’t sufficient.

“There is much data that suggests that this age group requires more than seven or 7.5 hours of sleep on average per night, ” Kline told The Huffington Post.

College students at this age likely need closer to eight hours of sleep, he told. “Every person is different. While some people may merely need seven hours, other may need nine hours of sleep in order to be well rested.”

Indeed, studies have find eight hours is needed for optimal cognitive performance. And the aforementioned research that found that 70 percent of college student get insufficient sleep used eight hours as a benchmark — means that a lot of the students whose sleep was recorded for the Jawbone data would have also been categorized as getting insufficient sleep.

3. The data doesn’t include naps

Another caveat, Kline told, is that the data doesn’t include sleeps. “My hunch is that nap hour is an important missing piece of information from the conclusion of this study.”

Total daytime sleep — napping — tends to be difficult to account for because sleeps can be short and easily forgotten, he told. But they do affect total sleep.

“It is very possible( and likely) that this population is taking sleeps, ” Kline added.

4. Fitness-tracking students aren’t exactly the norm

It’s also important to note that the data from Jawbone comes from students who purchased and used Jawbone UP fitness tracking devices. Though the students reported attending universities across the country, they do not necessarily make up a representative sample of college student to its implementation of demographics, socioeconomic status, or lifestyle factors. And the debate could be made that students who decided to buy and wear a fitness tracker may be more mindful of their own health and may make a conscious effort to sleep more than other students.

The only factors the Jawbone analysis was able to take into account when looking at the data were gender and school.

Sarah DiGiulio is The Huffington Post’s sleep reporter. You can contact her at sarah.digiulio .

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