Alumna, physician strive to improve student sleep habits
Caroline Doyle ’13 and the Student Health Center are educating Providence College students about one of their favorite subjects — sleep.
Doyle, who is now a research assistant at Brown University, organized a sleep study last year as part of an independent study with Dr. Suzanne Bornschein, staff physician at the Student Health Center.
This year, Doyle has continued to work on the study after being awarded a grant from the New England College Health Association (NECHA).
Doyle, a psychology major as an undergraduate, submitted a grant proposal to NECHA in order to learn more about the sleeping habits of students. This type of research has been done at other universities, Doyle said, but never at PC.
“To start the study, I created a survey for sleep knowledge, hygiene, and habits and received a good pile of data,” she said. “We realized that there is some misinformation about sleeping on campus.”
From the results of her survey, which amassed data from a sample of more than 150 PC students, Doyle learned that nearly half of students incorrectly agreed that drinking coffee cures drowsiness and that 84% of students thought that sleep is the time for the body and brain to shut down for rest. According to Doyle, sleep is instead a dynamic process during which the brain is constantly active.
On average, students started to feel tired at 10:05 p.m. on weekdays, but the average weekday bedtime was 12:41 a.m. The average amount of sleep students got per weeknight was 7 hours and 41 minutes, and 60% of the students said they sleep less in order to study.
Doyle and Bornschein presented their findings at the NECHA Annual Conference in November 2013. Now, with a new knowledge of PC’s sleeping habits, they wish to educate PC students about sleeping.
Bornschein reports that the single-most important health-related behavior that predicts academic performance at the college level is sleep. She stresses the importance for students to get a good night’s sleep, noting there is a direct correlation between a student’s G.P.A. and the number of hours he or she sleeps. “It affects decision-making, hunger, and mental health. It affects everything,” Bornschein said.
This month, Doyle and Student Health plan on having a weeklong educational campaign to introduce PC students to the essential facts about sleep. The campaign will involve events, pamphlets, newsletters — virtually any means to spread the information.
Doyle understands the sleep schedule of a student and hopes to help improve their resting regimen.
“Behavior change is hard, but we want to educate students so that they can make informed decisions,” Doyle said.
“We’re here to educate students,” added Bornschein. “The more sleep they get, the better their well-being, the better they’ll do with their studies, and the more they’ll enjoy it.”
— Nick Tavares ’16
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