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Sleep problems, anxiety and depression are common amongst college students. Researchers examined the specific sleep problems correlated with anxiety and depression. These sleep problems included sleep duration, sleep disturbances, sleep latency, daytime dysfunction, habitual sleep efficiency, overall sleep quality, and use of sleep medication. Researchers predicted that daytime dysfunction was the most important sleep problem related to greater anxiety symptoms, followed by overall quality of sleep, and sleep duration. Meanwhile, it was also predicted that daytime dysfunction would be the most important sleep problem and sleep latency the second most important sleep problem related to greater depressive symptoms. The study consisted of 561 undergraduate students (55% White, 69.9% female).
Two multiple regression analyses were conducted. The first examined the most pertinent sleep problems related to greater anxiety symptoms in college students. The seven sleep problems described above were simultaneously entered into the model. The overall model showed significantly greater anxiety symptoms, F(7, 513) = 19.19, p < .05. Together, these sleep problems accounted for 20.7% of the variance in greater anxiety symptoms. Daytime dysfunction due to sleepiness was the most strongly related to greater anxiety symptoms t(513) = 6.25, p < .05, followed by overall sleep quality, t(513) = 2.27, p < .05, followed by habitual sleep efficiency, t(513) = 2.26, p < .05.
The second multiple regression analysis was conducted to examine the relationship between sleep problems and depression symptoms. The same sleep problems were simultaneously entered into the model. The overall model showed the sleep problems significantly predicted depressive symptoms, F(7, 512) = 34.89, p < .001. Together, these sleep problems accounted for 32.3% of the variance in depression symptoms. In order of importance, sleep duration, t(512) = 2.84, p < .05, sleep disturbances, t(512) = 3.82, p < .001, daytime dysfunction due to sleepiness, t(512) = 8.90, p < .001, and overall sleep quality, t(512) = 2.14, p < .05, were all significantly related to depression symptoms.
These findings suggest that for individuals with anxiety or depressive symptoms targeting treatments that focus on daytime dysfunction and overall sleep quality may lead to a reduction in these symptoms. Additionally, specific to anxiety, we should focus on ameliorating habitual sleep efficiency by improving the amount of sleep individuals consistently receive. Conversely, in relation to depressive symptoms, future work should focus on increasing the amount of time people sleep and decreasing how much people awake while they are sleeping.
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Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D
Tess Drazdowski, M.S.
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