University Health Services says nearly 27 percent of students report sleep problems

Jeremy Thomas

A Taiwanese study released online last week by Stroke, a journal produced by the American Heart Association, revealed that insomnia may increase the risk of stroke, especially among young adults.

The study randomly compiled health records of more than 21,000 people with insomnia and more than 64,000 without insomnia — none of which had prior diagnosis of stroke or sleep apnea.

Researchers followed up with the group four years later and revealed that 583 of the people with insomnia and 962 of people without insomnia were admitted to a hospital. The study found that people between the ages of 18 and 34 who had insomnia were nearly eight times more likely to suffer a stroke than those who didn’t.

Thomas Milner, a biomedical engineering professor and cardiologist, said because the study is more focused on the epidemic of insomnia, insomnia may not be the root cause for the higher incidence of stroke. 

“The insomnia may be due to an underlying cause such as stress, that may have an even stronger correlation to the incidence of stroke,” Milner said. “I think the findings reported in the paper are very important, especially the finding that stroke has the highest correlation to young insomniacs. However, treating the insomnia may not have a large impact on reducing stroke.”

Milner said he would suggest further investigation of correlations between insomnia and some of the known biochemical and biomechanical mechanisms associated with stroke.

Nearly 27 percent of UT students self-reported sleep problems, according to the latest survey data from University Health Services.

Every year, UHS administers the National College Health Survey to random students to collect information on topics like alcohol consumption, drug use, mental and sexual health, sleep and personal safety and violence. The fall 2013 survey consisted of 934 respondents.

Health Promotion Coordinator Frances Nguyen said sleep problems have negative impacts on student academics. According to the survey, 22.4 percent of students reported sleep problems negatively impacting their academics, while 2.3 percent reported insomnia.

“Getting adequate amount of sleep helps retain memory,” Nguyen said. “Students who do not get enough sleep may find their reflexes not as quick, which may come as a detriment for students who drive or may perform in athletics.”

Nguyen said UHS encourages students’ mindfulness that they should prioritize sleep even with their busy schedules because it is important to health. She said it is crucial for students to develop regular sleep schedules and sleep for seven to nine hours a night.