Could Dorm Mattress Quality Be A Cause Of Sleep Deprivation in College Students?

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Between school, work, and socializing, college students have busy schedules. Sleep may be one of the first things they sacrifice to fit everything in, even though it’s essential for their health and well-being. When students get fewer hours of sleep than they should, sleep quality becomes even more important.

Turns out, something as simple as an uncomfortable dorm mattress could be increasing sleep issues for students. We surveyed 322 current college students from 217 different colleges and universities to review how long they sleep, whether mattress accessories improve sleep quality, and how college life affects sleep quality.

The survey revealed less than half of senior college students are getting sufficient sleep on weekdays. Around 43% get six hours of sleep or less per night. On the weekends, just over 60% of college seniors get eight hours or more of sleep. Based on our survey, multiple factors are getting in the way of a good night’s sleep for these students. Close to 41% reported being disturbed by their neighbors while trying to sleep.

Are Mattress Accessories Necessary For Better Sleep On Dorm Beds?

Comfort was another issue for college students in our survey. Almost 24% of students surveyed reported a comfortability factor of 5 or below in their dorm rooms. Of students who rated comfortability in their dorm room at or above 7 out of 10, 73% reported purchasing additional mattress accessories to achieve that comfort level. Close to 45% of all students surveyed reported buying additional accessories, and, of that group, roughly 76% purchased a mattress topper to improve their sleep environment.

The Impact a College Environment Has on Student Sleep Quality

It can be difficult to shut your brain off at night in preparation for sleep, especially if you’re experiencing anxiety or stress. For many college students living both on and off campus, stress and anxiety are a part of the college experience. In our survey, about 37% of respondents said that stress and anxiety impacted their sleep. Off-campus residents reported greater incidences of this, at nearly 70% of respondents, compared to almost 42% of those who live with roommates.

Other Impacts On College Students Sleep

It’s not just comfort that affects sleep quality for college students. Impediments to good sleep hygiene, screen time, exercise frequency, and alcohol were all reported issues in our survey.

For college students living in dorms, the communal aspect of these environments can pose hurdles to a good night’s sleep. Just over 14% of respondents in our survey said that noise affected their sleep, whether it was a loud roommate, noisy neighbors, or ambient sounds in the nearby hallway.

Another 11% of college students said their screen time, including phone use, social media, television, and video games, impacted their sleep. Just over 43% of those who reported this were seniors. That’s likely related to the effect of blue light, which inhibits melatonin production. Blue light exposure can also boost brain activity and make you feel more alert. That’s disruptive to the sleep cycle, so it’s important to limit blue light within a few hours before bed.

A small percentage of college students surveyed, just over 5%, reported that their exercise levels during the day affected their sleep. Those who didn’t work out or were off their usual exercise schedule say they experienced sleep issues. There is evidence that daily exercise can make it feel easier to fall asleep and may also improve perceived sleep quality.

Nearly three-quarters of the respondents reported drinking one to three alcoholic beverages per week. As a depressant, alcohol may help people fall asleep faster. However, it can affect overall sleep quality by causing nighttime disruptions, limited REM sleep, and increasing the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.

Final Thoughts

Sleep deprivation is a reality for many college students. According to our survey, college students are experiencing sleep issues that stem from everything from an uncomfortable dorm mattress and noisy roommates to too much screen time and anxiety about grades. 

Fortunately, some of the things getting in the way of a good night’s sleep for many college students can be addressed. A good mattress topper and sleep headphones can improve the immediate sleep environment, while consistent exercise, a soothing bedtime ritual, and minimal screen time and alcohol consumption in the hours before bedtime can help college students get the restful and restorative sleep they need to be successful.

Jessica Timmons