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We might expect that sleep issues primarily affect physical health and wellness. However, the benefits of sleep extend beyond that to other wellness dimensions such as students’ academic success. Newer research suggests that addressing student sleep can also contribute to students’—and colleges’—financial success.

Academic benefits of sleep

In 2018, researchers at the University of St. Thomas discovered unexpected academic outcomes for students who have sleep problems: namely that sleep disturbances were associated with lower GPAs and higher rates of course withdrawals and incompletes. In fact, the study found that each additional day per week that a student experienced sleep problems increased the likelihood that the student would drop the course by 10 percent and that their GPA would be lower by .02 points (Sleep Health, 2019).


Likelihood that a student with sleep problems would drop a course
For first-year students, the study showed that reducing sleep problems just one day per week can increase the likelihood of graduation by as much as two percent.

Since higher education is strongly related to higher median earnings, the researchers also wanted to explore the economic benefits of better sleep for both students and schools.

Economic benefits of college sleep programs

The study looked into the economics of investing in early identification and treatment of sleep problems.

Additional dollars earned per student with improved academic performance
Students who are more likely to graduate are also more likely to have higher future earnings. The study estimates that if schools implement a universal sleep program, their students’ improved academic performance translates to an additional $1,110 in expected lifetime earnings per student. Another potential benefit to students? Getting better sleep and dropping fewer courses means graduating faster, which would reduce their student loan amounts.
Helping students sleep better would also likely increase retention and graduation rates, which translates to economic benefits for schools. The researchers found that identifying and addressing sleep problems far outweighs the costs of implementing an on-campus sleep program. This economic gain for schools doesn’t take into account other potential benefits related to better student sleep, including reductions in accident frequency, drug use, health care utilization, and mental health symptoms.
Our CampusWell online wellness publication can play an essential role in your students’ sleep education. We help you provide students with evidence-based, relatable articles created with original input from subject matter experts. Each feature provides students with actionable steps to enhance all areas of their well-being—including sleep. Learn more here or set up a demonstration to see how CampusWell can benefit your school.

Student demand for college sleep programs

There is a strong demand for schools to provide sleep programs. Sixty-five percent of students say they want to learn more about sleep from their school, yet only 24 percent report receiving any sleep-related information (National College Health Assessment, 2019). In fact, sleep education is one of the most requested and least provided health topics for college students.

If instituting a sleep program generates greater demand in the competitive higher education market, colleges may earn increased net revenue from that alone.


of students say they want to learn more about sleep from their school


Providing sleep education for students is an underutilized opportunity for colleges to further support student academic success, maximize retention rates, and improve the economic outcomes of both students and schools. 

“As institutions of higher learning navigate the tuition-driven climate of students with record levels of sleep disturbance and mental health challenges, sleep screening and education programs provide universities a low-cost, easy to implement approach to increasing academic performance and retention,” according to the study authors.

American College Health Association. (2019). National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA-II) Reference Group Data Report. Retrieved from https://www.acha.org/documents/ncha/NCHA-II_SPRING_2019_US_REFERENCE_GROUP_DATA_REPORT.pdf

Hartmann, M., & Prichard. J. R. (2018). Calculating the contribution of sleep problems to under-graduates’ academic success. Sleep Health, 4, 463-471. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2018.07.002 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2352721818301190?via%3Dihub

Prichard, J. R., & Hartmann, M. E. (2019). Follow-up to Hartmann & Prichard: Should universities invest in promoting healthy sleep? A question of academic and economic significance. Sleep Health, 5(4):320-325. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2019.01.006. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352721819300208?via%3Dihub