Improving Student Sleep Quality

Student sleeping with stuffed toy Tufts elephant.

Improving Student Sleep Quality through Implementation of Circadian Rhythm Lighting

Sleep Study

Poor and insufficient sleep is endemic to students attending college. To improve students’ sleep, previous health promotion efforts have focused on sleep hygiene education; however, this method alone has not shown a significant improvement in students’ sleep quality (Digdon, 2010). In place of sleep hygiene education, our research aims to control students’ sleep environment by implementing a passive circadian rhythm lighting in their bedrooms. The proposed study is a pilot study to assess students’ capability of using a:

  1. Circadian lighting system (room lighting),
  2. NASA Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT) (test behavioral alertness), and
  3. NASA sleep diary (track sleep, monitor sleep habits, and document sleeping problems).

The elimination of college students’ sleep irregularities is imperative because it improves students’ ability to assimilate new knowledge, improve retention of information, and support academic success (Eliasson et al., 2010). Additionally, improved sleep quality is associated with better mental health. This is important since mental illness is common among college-aged populations (Haregu et al., 2015).

Previous studies only focused on controlling individual’s behavior using sleep hygiene education (Digdon, 2010, Hershner et al., 2018, & Quan et al., 2018). In these studies, students only showed a slight improvement in sleep quality since factors that improve sleep are beyond an individual’s control (Digdon, 2010). Most studies have not focused on controlling students’ sleep environment, ambient lighting, noise, heat, and other environmental elements.

To address this research gap, the study examines students’ ability to control lighting, document sleep patterns and track behavioral alertness in their sleep environment. Artificial lighting has impacted the natural sleep-wake cycle that operates on a 24-hour diurnal pattern (Blume et al., 2019). Exposure to artificial light at certain wavelengths during the evening and night is associated with sleep disorders and poor sleep quality (Blume et al., 2019). Transversely, light is utilized as a noninvasive therapeutic option to improve sleep and mood. The implementation of circadian rhythm lighting that aligns with wavelengths consistent with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, has shown to improve sleep, mood, and general well-being (Blume et al., 2019).

Rather than emphasizing individual behavior change, the study modifies the sleep environment by implementing circadian rhythm lighting in students’ bedrooms. The goal is to enhance students’ sleep quality without their conscious effort. By measuring the students’ ability to adjust the independent variable, lighting, on the dependent variable, sleep quality, the study assesses students’ ability to use and track their aptitude to implement a circadian lighting system.

Sleep Training Materials

Sleep Tips

  • Aim for 8 - 9 hours of sleep per night
  • Have a regular bed time — even on the weekends
  • Turn off all "screens" 30-60 minutes prior to bed. TVs, iPhones, laptops, video games, computers, iPads...Any device with a backlight is too stimulating to the brain and can prevent you from falling sleep or getting a restful sleep. Use flux on your devices to help reduce the sleep-damaging light.
  • Sleep in complete darkness. Use a sleep mask if necessary
  • Keep your room cool. Optimal sleep temperature is 68° F
  • Reserve your bed for sleeping. Avoid watching TV, studying, etc., in your bed
  • Tune out noise using ear plugs or white noise. Consider using a white noise machine or phone app.
  • Discuss your sleep habits with roommates and work with each other to get the sleep you both need.
  • Tufts Counseling and Mental Health (CMHS) Sleep Tips
  • Sleep Tips 
  • Got Sleep?