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Volume 14 No. 03
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Accepted Papers

Scientific Investigations

The Impact of a Randomized Sleep Education Intervention for College Students

Shelley Hershner, MD1; Louise M. O'Brien, PhD, MS2
1Department of Neurology, Sleep Disorder Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan; 2Department of Neurology, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Study Objectives:

Sleep deprivation can impair attention, mood, and performance; however, few effective sleep education programs are available. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of a sleep education website, Sleep to Stay Awake (, on sleep behaviors of college students.


College students (age 18 years or older) attending a public Midwestern university were randomized to control or intervention groups. All subjects completed baseline surveys that included demographics, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, Patient Health Questionnaire, sleep knowledge, and measures of sleepiness and circadian rhythm. The intervention group then undertook the online intervention. Surveys were repeated at 1 week and at 8 weeks.


Students who participated included 295 controls and 254 intervention subjects. The mean age was 21.9 ± 4.1 years and 41.7% were male. Survey results at 8 weeks showed that more intervention subjects reported improved sleep behaviors (50.3% versus 39.5%, P = .04). Intervention subjects were more likely to stop electronics use earlier (odds ratio [95% confidence interval] = 1.5 [1.0–2.4]), keep a more regular sleep schedule (1.6 [1.06–2.4]), have an earlier weekday rise time (2.4 [1.3–4.4]), and have a lower likelihood of insufficient sleep prior to examinations (0.46 [0.28–0.76]). The intervention group had improvement in mean sleep quality (odds ratio = 5.8 versus 6.6, P < .001) and depression scores (odds ratio = 4.6 versus 5.6, P = .03). No significant differences were found in the other measures.


A brief and personalized online sleep education intervention improved sleep behaviors, sleep quality, and depressions scores. This novel approach to address sleep deprivation, poor sleep habits, and mood among college students may offer an effective and inexpensive remedy.


Hershner S, O'Brien LM. The impact of a randomized sleep education intervention for college students. J Clin Sleep Med. 2018;14(3):337–347.

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