The importance of adequate quantity and quality of sleep has been well documented with various negative effects experienced among individuals with sleep difficulties. Among college students, the prevalence of sleep difficulties has been noted to be significantly higher than the adult population and also to be higher among female students compared to male students. Sleep deprivation has also been found to result to adverse effects for the student's daily performance, such as academics, driving besides being linked to behavioral problems and depressed moods (Walter et al, 2001). The main problems among college students include trouble sleeping and an unstable sleeping pattern involving frequent waking up at night. A shift in sleeping and waking times during the week and over the weekend, which is also common among college students, is recognized to be a major cause of disruption of the circadian rhythm, which is the 24 hour day-night rhythm that influences the sleep quality.
Women have reported more than men to have experienced sleeping problems indicating that there is a relationship between various sleep patterns and gender. Significant sleeping patterns that are exhibited through difficulties in maintaining sleep, daytime napping and morning tiredness are thought to be related to the relationships among depression, somatic complaints, anxiety, depression and sleep, thus the higher prevalence in women (Young et al, 2002).
The difference in sleep quality among college students and adults and older people indicate that age is a crucial factor in influencing sleep patterns, quantity and quality. Besides the shifts in the circadian rhythm, research in to the sleeping patterns indicate that bedtime becomes earlier with age, with length of sleep on weekdays, daytime napping and nocturnal awakenings increasing with men experiencing longer sleep. Another major sleep pattern accompanying age is a shift towards morningness.
Various research thus point out on the need for college students to observe regular sleep patterns to ensure a stable sleep pattern and limited disturbance. Furthermore, besides gender differences associated with sleep patterns, age is a crucial determining shaping sleeping pattern.