College Student Sleep Statistics

The median bedtime was 2 a.m. for college students. But those who went to sleep earlier had better overall grades.
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Jane Nam is a staff writer for BestColleges' Data Center. Before her work on higher education data trends, Jane was a news writer and the managing editor for an academic journal. She has graduate degrees in social and political philosophy and women's...
Published on June 6, 2023
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Lyss Welding is a higher education analyst and data writer for BestColleges who specializes in translating massive data sets and finding statistics that matter to students. Lyss has worked in academic research, curriculum design, and program evaluati...
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Data Summary

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    On average, college students sleep roughly seven hours per night.[1]
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    The median bedtime was 2 a.m., but students who went to sleep before the median bedtime had better overall grades.Note Reference [1]
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    Sleep factors, including bedtime consistency, better quality, and longer sleep duration, accounted for almost a 25% variance in academic performance.Note Reference [1]
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    First-year students were especially vulnerable to sleeping issues. Some attributed this to the noise and social life typically found in first-year dormitories.[2]

The importance of getting a good night's rest seems like nothing new. However, research shows just how important it may really be to college students' success — the difference of a letter grade. This is especially true for first-year students who are most vulnerable to sleep deprivation.

This report covers how much sleep college students get on average — including average bedtimes and waking hours, the correlation between sleep and grades, and how much sleep students need.

How Much Sleep Do College Students Get?

According to a 2019 study in the journal NPJ Science of Learning, on average, college students went to sleep at 2 a.m. and woke up at 9 a.m.Note Reference [1]

  • This puts the average sleep time at seven hours per night.
  • Students who went to sleep before the average bedtime had better overall grades.Note Reference [1]
  • A 2022 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that over 1 in 4 students (26.4%) experienced insomnia.Note Reference [3]
  • The National Institute of Health predicted the figure to be even higher at 74%.[4]
  • The odds of having insomnia were especially high for students with depression and ADHD, as well as for employed students.Note Reference [4]

Did you know…

26% of college students experience insomnia.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and PreventionNote Reference [3]

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation for College Students

Correlation Between Sleep and Grades

Sleep factors, including bedtime consistency, better quality, and longer sleep duration, accounted for almost a 25% variance in academic performance.Note Reference [1]

In the 2019 NPJ Science of Learning study, 88 students in an introductory college chemistry class wore Fitbit activity trackers over a period of 14 weeks to collect sleep data.Note Reference [1] Researchers found there to be a significant positive correlation between average sleep duration over the course of a month with assessment scores.

Despite the argument that students can get more study time in by staying up longer, the study found that there was no correlation between a single night of sleep and test performance the following day.Note Reference [1] This suggests that pulling an all-nighter to study does not have a positive impact on grades.

Sleep Deprivation Impairs Your Brain in Ways That Compare to Being Drunk

Sleep deprivation did not only impact academic performance. Massachusetts Institute of Technology research scientist Kana Okano also cited a study conducted by Dawson and Reid (1997) that showed how the cognitive abilities of a person who stayed awake for 17 hours were equivalent to those of a person who had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05%, suggesting that a sleep-deprived person exhibits characteristics of cognitive impairment.Note Reference [1]

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

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    Memory loss
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    Poor academic performance
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    Negative impact on learning
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    Significant compromise in performance of cognitive tasks

Source: National Library of Medicine[5]

More Sleep Studies and Struggles

According to spring 2009 data collected by the American College Health Association of 55,322 students, each additional day per week an undergraduate student experienced sleeping problems (e.g., difficulty falling asleep or waking up), their cumulative GPA decreased by 0.02 points.Note Reference [2] Further, the likelihood of dropping a course increased 10%.

First-year students were especially vulnerable to sleeping issues. Sleep researcher and professor of neuroscience and psychology Roxanne Prichard cited an interview conducted by Foulkes, McMillan, and Gregory (2019) of first-year students and how some attributed the noise and social life at first-year residential halls to being disruptive to their sleep.Note Reference [2] In addition to disruptive sleep, first-year students also often have the earliest morning classes.

How Much Sleep Should College Students Get?

As stated in a joint consensus statement by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society, adults between the ages of 18-60 years old should be getting roughly 7-9 hours of sleep per night.[6] This range was based on a review of over 5,000 scientific articles.

Duration is just one piece of the equation, however, and researchers emphasize the importance of sleep quality and regularity. Sleeping less than seven hours regularly is associated with several health risks, including weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and depression. It is also known to impair immune function and everyday performance of tasks.

Just like every aspect of physical and mental health, sleep needs are influenced by genetic, behavioral, medical, and environmental factors and vary by individual.Note Reference [6]

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