Interrupted Sleep: College Students Sleeping With Technology

Tuesday, 31 October 2017: 8:20 AM

E. B. Dowdell, PhD
College of Nursing, Villanova University, Oreland, PA, USA

Background/Purpose: Quantity and quality of sleep are essential components of one’s physical and emotional well-being. Research has demonstrated that many college students report being sleep deprived, have poor sleep habits, and experience poor sleep quality. In this age group risk factors associated with poor sleeping include technology use and access. Sleep texting is related to cell phone use as it is a behavior that occurs when an individual is reading and responding to text messages while asleep. It has been identified as an abnormal sleep behavior, similar to sleepwalking. Many college students are dependent on their cell phones, exchanging as many as 60 to 100 text messages a day, and sleep texting is a concerning behavior. Research shows that reduced sleep length and quality may negatively impact cognitive functioning, general health, and feelings of well-being.

Methods: This descriptive, correlational study used a convenience sample of 372 college students, 75% females (n=281) and 25% males (n=91), with an average age of 19 years. Students were surveyed about their sleep quality, technology use, and sleep texting behaviors. Students were encouraged to share experiences with sleep texting as well as anecdotal stories.

Results: The majority of students were more likely to report sleep interruption due to their cell phone as well as answering their phone while asleep (p < .000). A quarter of the sample (25.6%) reported that they are routinely sleep texting with significantly more girls (86%; p < .01) reporting the behavior. Students also reported that they consistently sleep with their phone turned on and in bed with them (p < .000). Female students had higher levels of poor sleep quality compared to the males (p < .05) and the majority of students reported having no memory of the sleep texting behavior (72%) or what they texted (25%).

Conclusions & Implications: Sleep is increasingly recognized as important to health across the lifespan and this study supports evidence that sleep texting is a growing trend in a young adult college student population. Research has consistently found that college students often experience a variety of sleep difficulties ranging from lack of sleep to poor sleep quality. Students who obtain poor-quality sleep not only suffer academically, but also physically and emotionally. Nurses who practice in primary care, schools, psychiatric mental health, emergency, and critical care settings are encountering young adults whose sleep is being interrupted by technology use. Incorporating appropriate as well as comprehensive assessments that include current sleep habits and experiences with sleep texting is important and can lead to interventions that will promote health and good sleep habits.