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College Students’ Sleep Health Links to Risky Driving

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Sarah Shoen

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Insufficient sleep isn’t just bad for your health, it can also make you a danger while driving. According to a study that examined college students’ sleep patterns and driving behaviors, this population’s sleep characteristics are associated with risky driving.

Researchers suggest that this issue is a public health concern, as it poses a threat to not only college students themselves, but also to all drivers on the road.

Researchers surveyed approximately 1,300 college students in the Midwestern U.S. about their perceived sleep quality, sleep latency (how long it takes them to fall asleep), sleep duration, and other sleep behaviors.

The study identified that when participants reported sleep disturbances once or twice per week, their risk of sending and reading texts or emails while driving increased three-fold.

Survey data showed that 75% of students reported reading emails or texts while driving.

Notably, participants’ risk of falling asleep while driving increased nine-fold when they reported sleep disturbances three or more times per week.

Researchers noted little correlation between sleep duration and risky driving behaviors. But participants’ perceived sleep duration may differ from the actual time slept. Similarly, the study did not distinguish between weekend and weeknight sleep, which can vary greatly among college students.

Researchers suggested that further investigation into these sleep disturbances may help continue to refine the relationship between these young adults’ sleep quality and driving behavior.

“Teenagers and young people are deserving of attention in road safety research due to the high prevalence of insufficient and poor-quality sleep in these groups, placing them at elevated risk for adverse driving behavior and risk for crashes,” researchers said.

“Those who are not getting sufficient sleep among other markers of good sleep health were also more likely to report distracted driving behaviors.”
Dr. Rebecca Robbins

Risky choices and habits that are developed in college can result in long-term negative impacts on a person’s health and life, which is why the awareness of sleep in college is crucial.

According to Dr. Rebecca Robbins, one of the co-authors of the study, it is crucial to consider preemptive measures toward risky driving awareness.

“Those who are not getting sufficient sleep among other markers of good sleep health were also more likely to report distracted driving behaviors,” Dr. Robbins said. “These findings suggest that counseling high school and college students about the dangers of distracted driving and the particularly high risk associated with doing so while sleepy might be warranted.”

Researchers recommend further research that designs interventions to improve sleep among college students, which may support better sleep health while reducing risky driving behaviors.

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About Our Editorial Team

author
Sarah Shoen

News Writer

Sarah has covered news topics for digital and print publications. She holds a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Nevada.

About Our Editorial Team

author
Sarah Shoen

News Writer

Sarah has covered news topics for digital and print publications. She holds a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Nevada.

References

    +1  Sources
  • 1.
    Robbins, R., Piazza, A., Martin, R. J., Jean-Louis, G., Knowlden, A. P., & Grandner, M. A. (2021). Examining the relationship between poor sleep health and risky driving behaviors among college students. Traffic injury prevention, 22(8), 599–604. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34699291/

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