Earlier studies have also reported the correlation between psychological problems (e.g. anxiety and depression) and nightmares, and more recent studies have focused on the correlation between suicidal tendencies and nightmares among adolescents. More particularly, according to Liu (2004), sleeplessness is more widespread in students with higher suicidal tendency, and this pattern is usually attended by frequent nightmares. Nightmares are described as intense dreams characterized by heightened feelings of fear that rouses the person, which normally take place during REM sleep. In a research of individuals experiencing major depression, Agargun and associates (1998) (as cited in Liu, 2004) illustrated that recurrent nightmares are linked to heightened suicidal ideation. Current studies indicate that nightmares are more widespread than initially thought.
Hershner and Chevin (2014) put forth another detrimental impact of sleep quality on psychological wellbeing. They reported that sleep disruption is an important factor which brings about poor sense of worth or self-image, which, in turn, could cause depression. They further conveyed that university experts are more inclined to handle depression as the greatest contributing factor to poor academic outcomes, neglecting the fact that a poor self-image caused by poor sleep quality is major root of depression. Thus, given these gaps in the literature, it is essential to identify the actual fundamental relationship between sleep quality and depression among college students.
Nonetheless, despite the comprehensiveness and validity of the findings about the greater importance of sleep quality over sleep quantity, some researchers claim that proponents of sleep quality did not take into consideration other factors that could influence academic performance among college students. Without taking into account sleep quantity, these researchers argue that it is not possible to draw an accurate conclusion about the actual impact of sleep disorders on the academic performance of college students (Wolfson & Carskadon, 2003). The studies of educators, social scientists, and developmental psychologists in evaluating aspects that focus on disparities in academic performance have emphasized the significance of a more inclusive model than most sleep experts have adopted.
Similarly, other social scientists currently argued that researchers that examine the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral performance of college students have to take into full account of the quantity of sleep on the psychological and physiological health of college students. They argue that sleep quality alone cannot account for the full aspect of the academic performance of college students. For instance, studies have reported that shorter duration of sleep affects the ability of college students to focus during classroom activities and examinations. Lawrence Epstein, a medical professor at Harvard University, argues for the importance of sleep quantity (American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2007, para 3):
Recent studies have shown that adequate sleep is essential to feeling awake and alert, maintaining good health and working at peak performance. After two weeks of sleeping six hours or less a night, students feel as bad and perform as poorly as someone who has gone without sleep for 48 hours. New research also highlights the importance of sleep in learning and memory. Students getting adequate amounts of sleep performed better on memory and motor tasks than did students deprived of sleep.
Several researchers support lengthier sleep for students because brain functions are also dependent on the amount of sleep an individual receives.
All of these contentions are valid and reasonable. It is true that both sleep quality and sleep quantity should be taken into account in the examination of the physical, cognitive, and behavioral performance of college students. Both sleep quality and sleep quantity affect the overall wellbeing of an individual. However, the primacy of sleep quality over sleep quantity has been supported by a fair number of studies. Stenzel (2015) firmly argues that college students should be trained in time management and taught about the importance of quality of sleep. He found out from his study of the impact of sleep quality on college students’ behavior that sleeping longer during weekends or free time does not compensate for the lack of efficient sleep. Deficient sleep quality is harder to recover than inadequate sleep quantity. Hence the argument of this paper stands—there should be a greater emphasis on sleep quality among college students.
In conclusion, there is a certain level of confusion between sleep quality and sleep quantity. Many mistakenly interchange the two. Sleep quantity refers to the quantifiable aspect of sleep, such as duration and amount of sleep, whereas sleep quality refers to the intangible characteristic of sleep such as its efficiency and depth. It is the contention of this paper that sleep quality has a greater influence on the academic performance of college students than sleep quantity. There are three supporting premises for this argument: the greater impact of sleep quality on the cognitive performance of students; on the onset of depression; and, on life satisfaction. Poor quality of sleep adversely affects the learning, memory, and concentration skills of students, while nothing of the sort has been mentioned for sleep quantity. According to several studies, too much sleeping can even impair daytime activities, but there is no such thing as ‘excessive’ sleep quality that could detrimentally affect an individual’s psychological, emotional, and physiological performance.
Depressive symptoms usually occur in individuals who are chronically deprived of quality sleep. Staying awake for a number of hours does not significantly contribute to the onset of depression among college students, but excessive stimulation or repetitive arousal during sleep can significantly affect the ability of an individual to cope with internal and external stressors. And, lastly, the wellbeing and quality of life of students is largely determined by the quality of sleep they obtain. The recuperating and invigorating impact of sleep is simply achieved through efficient sleep. However, not everyone is convinced that sleep quality is more important than sleep quantity. Several professionals from various disciplines still adhere to the idea that the duration and amount of sleep that students get significantly affects their ability to perform well academically. Some support a more balanced view of sleep quality and sleep quantity.
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