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Free «Sleep and Stress of Undergraduate College Students» Essay Sample


This is a research into sleep and stress assessed evident in a group of undergraduate students in Family and Human Services courses. The survey and analysis were made and the perceived stress scale was recorded. The results of this research revealed that sleep patterns and health were significantly influenced. Over 60 percent of the students had extremely great levels of stress.  The main causes of the stress were academic workload, relationships, and time management.  Extremely high and enormous stress levels among most of the participants correlated with their unhealthy behaviors, which included their eating habits and relationships. Eventually, this led to decreased level of sleep (Caldwell, Harrison, Adams, Quin, & Greeson, 2010).

Sleep and Stress of Undergraduate College Students


Stress always permeates every aspect of today’s society and is regarded as a normal experience for all American citizens. Stress levels in the US have been alarmingly high despite being referred to as “the epidemic of the 80’s,” by the Time magazine (America’s No.1 Health Problem, 2009). A national survey carried out by the renowned American Psychological Association (APA) in 2012 brought out the fact that almost half of all American citizens live with high stress levels, and more than half of those Americans (48 percent) think that their perceived stress levels had greatly risen in the three years prior to this study (Caldwell, Harrison, Adams, Quin, & Greeson, 2010).



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There are numerous negative and disturbing implications of any stressful situations influencing health. Temporary stress can lead to high blood pressure, chest pains, headaches, sleeping problems, and stomachaches. There is enough evidence that stress inhibits the immune system of students leading to severe colds and sickness in their stress times. Furthermore, permanent stress can severely affect both mental and physical health (Caldwell, Harrison, Adams, Quin, & Greeson, 2010).

A 2004 study that dealt with meta-analysis and was based on 40 years of research into the relationship between sleep and stress, came to a conclusion that as any stressor became more chronic and severe, its general influence on one’s ability to overcome diseases becomes massive (Segerstrom & Miller, 2004).  The European Heart Journal reported after a critical study of over 20,000 civil workers in England that there was a 70 percent risk of the heart disease among all stressed employees (Chandola et al, 2008). Stress has become “America’s #1 Health Problem,” as evident by research conducted by The American Institute of Stress (2009).

Stress is generally common among undergraduate university students, as academic pressure leads to sleep disorders. The study assessed a given group of undergraduates in line with their perceived stress levels. It was in response to all the sources and outlets of stress. Sample used in the study included 125 male and female undergraduates. Results indicated that stress is a major barrier to having healthy sleep and lifestyle.

Literature Review

Young generations are greatly influenced by stress, which will affect the society in the future. It is contrary to the usual studies and discussions that have always been considering the effects of stress on older populations. As noted from Lund et al (2009), the young generations demonstrate high risks of generating extreme stress levels basing on the changing economic, social, cultural, and religious situation. Most of the recent studies have addressed this evident concern through the research into specific youth stress and its impacts. A most recent study conducted in 2012 by Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the UCLA, investigated current stress levels among youth and their impacts on adults’ health.  Blood samples taken from the seventy young participants revealed that stress is associated with the extreme inflammation levels. It indicated a greater risk for most heart diseases in adulthood (Galambos, Dalton, & Maggs, 2009).

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Physiological impacts of the stress levels were already represented. The causes and implications of the stress levels required more investigation, as most of the previous researches carried out on correlations between high stress levels and health problems have been focused on adults. As noted from Von et al (2004), lack of any sufficient research and analysis into the effects of stress on young generations and their sleep could greatly prompt a massive failure to prevent other future health and sleep disorders than those of older generations (Lund, Reider, , Whiting, , & Roxanne Prichard, 2010).

Numerous studies attempted to determine the main sources of the stress among undergraduate college students. The study carried out in1999, famously referred to as Student Stress Survey, identified daily struggles leading to high stress levels among students.

Extremely stressed students had lower self-esteem and less understanding of their health standards (Hudd, Dumlao, & Erdmann-Sager, 2000). Many families face the problems of stress among their children as well as functional discourse due to parallel modification in the structures of the family. The home atmosphere for the majority of young people signifies a place where there is instability and emotional disturbance where nurturing, security and caring are nonexistent or depleted (Galambos, Dalton, & Maggs, 2009). Divorce, separation, abandonment, or death takes away one or two parents from the home. The lack of affection and attention that may come with such change negatively affects the children. Subsequent financial and emotional complexities of a single parent home further damage the family dynamic.

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Domestic violence, substance abuse, physical, sexual and emotional abuses as well as poor health affect a number of families. More and more young people join higher education with not so good family settings that evoke trepidation and stress in students. For those children whose parents are alcoholics, the social climate in the college that is influenced by the use of alcohol produces considerable nervousness as the student struggles with the familial and personal repercussions of observing as well as taking part in drinking performances. It is very important that colleges know the existence and effects of family discourse as well as childhood distress on their students, and give them the necessary support to help them deal with their situations and do well in the collegiate atmosphere.

Nowadays, many people are suffering from depression. Out of this general population, students from colleges are the ones who have twice the likelihood of suffering from clinical depression. Depression gets in the way of intra- as well as interpersonal activities, social and academic incorporation, and retention. A few depressed people may show an uncooperative, hostile as well as self-criticizing interpersonal approach drawing negative reactions from other people. Poor community skills as well as social insight are known to make individuals exposed to the start of depressive symptomology in addition to other psychosocial setbacks pursuant to the knowledge of depressing stressful life happenings.

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Services that are provided by colleges to deal with students' psychological and personal problems depend entirely on the institution’s philosophy, existing resources, as well as campus requirements. Universities and colleges of different types ought to expand and employ private services that cover many policy fields to address these problems sufficiently. Forming partnerships with a variety of aspects of the institution, for instance the college mental health and counseling center, women's center, student health services, spiritual and religious organizations, learning center and other organizations, enlarges the range of programs existing as well as students influenced.

According to Gilchrist (2012), complete initiatives that integrate the domains of psychiatric therapy, cure, avoidance, outreach, learning, and profession allow institutions of higher education to ensure that their services are meeting the different psychological and personal wants of students sufficiently. Groups, individuals, children, couples, and family therapy opportunities tackle problems related to relationship, family and private dynamics (Nathaniel et al, 1999). Neuropsychological, psychological, alcohol, drug, and profession assessments give the necessary information to serve the student better. Universities and colleges also offer self-help as well as learning materials in addition to employing standardized courses and interactive systems of the computers (Gilchrist, 2012). Learning institutions may outsource guidance services or build up a referral system that directs students to services accessible in the community.

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Research Hypothesis

This research is aimed at identifying whether stress levels affect sleep. The research question is “Does the amount of sleep, which students get, affects their stress levels? Students that get less sleep are more likely to be stressed. The independent variable is sleep and the dependent variable is stress.


The main sample is comprised of 124 undergraduate students where (n= 58m, 66f). These students were evidently enrolled in Family and Human Services courses being almost the same age (19). The group comprised of students who had achieved the normal range of average grades, and also displayed various extracurricular interests. This survey was completely voluntary. However, it was successfully completed and analyzed by each student in the class.

The independent variable is sleep, and the dependent variable is stress. The main questions in that survey were applied in gathering data on these following areas: a) the demographic details and information; b) the magnitude of stress; c) outlets for this stress; d) sources of stress.

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The survey among students was made during the class, therefore, much time was needed to complete it. The initial questions used in the survey were mainly designed to gather the demographic data, which included students’ sex, academic year, average grades, and age. First, students were clearly asked to randomly rate their perceived overall stress level. Also, they had to determine the circumstances under which they found themselves stressed. One section of the survey generally needed participants to clearly rank their stress level of other certain factors including academic workload, living conditions, their social life, body image, adequate sleep, intimate relationships, time management, extracurricular activities, and overall health.

The study’s latter section focused greatly on stress and related to sleep disorders and how the students responded to it.


Out of the 125 study participants, 66 students (53.4 percent) ranked (on given scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest) their perceived stress levels to be greater than a 4. It shows that stress greatly affected the number of hours that one slept.

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Stress Levels of Students Who Sleep Over 7 Hours

Figure 2:  Percentage of undergraduate students who sleep over 7 night hours are deemed to have lower stress levels. [Source: Segerstrom, SC and Miller, GE. (2004)]

Stress is generally common among many undergraduate university students, as academic pressure leads to sleep disorders (Caldwell, Harrison, Adams, Quin, & Greeson, 2010). This study assessed a given group of undergraduates in line with their perceived stress levels. It also responded to all the sources and outlets of stress (Liguori, Schuna Jr, & Mozumdar, 2011). Sample used in the study included 125 male and female undergraduates, which shows a great possibility of just results. The results indicated that stress is a major barrier to having healthy sleep and lifestyle. It shows that sleep and disorders greatly depend on the stress levels.


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