Sleep is a critical factor in NYU students’ academic success and general wellbeing. NYU students typically have strenuous schedules replete with class, homework, part-time jobs, extracurricular clubs and activities, in addition to all of the exciting events the surrounding city has to offer. However with these opportunities and responsibilities, students often do not get adequate sleep. Short-term effects of sleep deprivation include decreased cognitive function, memory, performance and alertness. In the long term, sleep deprivation can be associated with obesity, mental and physical health impairments, and attention deficit disorder.1

Key Facts

  • “Sleep difficulties” ranks third on the list of factors which impact students’ academics.2
  • Fatigue costs the workplace $136 billion per year in lost productivity.3
  • An estimated 50-70 million U.S. adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder.4
  • 7 million primary care office visits are due to symptoms of significant fatigue each year in the U.S.5
  • Almost 20 % of all serious car crash injuries in the general population are associated with driver sleepiness.4
  • Sleep is involved in the acquisition, maintenance and retrieval of memories, as well as memory consolidation. Consequently, sleep deprivation has been shown to impact both working memory and long-term memory processes.6,7
  • Sleep deprivation and debt can adversely affect brain and cognitive function, including one’s decision-making process and attention.8
  • Compared to non-sleep deprived individuals, individuals with chronic sleep loss are less productive, have health care needs greater than the norm, and have an increased likelihood of injury.9

sleep indicators


  1. Expand efforts to educate students about sleep-promoting habits.
    Poor sleep habits, or sleep hygiene, are among the most common reasons for inadequate sleep among college students. Ongoing campaigns and educational programs focused on sleep-promoting behaviors may significantlyimprove sleep habits and reduce sleep difficulties among students.10 Examples of evidence-based sleep hygiene measures include maintaining a regular sleep and wake pattern, avoiding caffeine close to bedtime, and exercising daily.11 Increasingly, Internet-based resources, mobile applications, and tracking devices are being used to combat inadequate sleep and improve students’ awareness about sleep hygiene. Studies have shown that these types of technologies can be used to deliver interactive and tailored interventions for students and contribute to overall sleep improvements.12

  2. Increase access to non-medication-based sleep aids
    to students who would benefit from their use. The sleep environment is an important factor that influences adequate sleep; increased stimuli associated with shared living situations and the urban environment can interfere with students’ ability to get a good night of sleep. Studies have shown that sleep equipment, such as white noise machines, earplugs, eye masks, and proper pillows can decrease sleep arousal and interruption.13,14,15 The use of sleep equipment has been shown not only to improve sleep quality but also to increase the amount of REM sleep and nocturnal melatonin levels.14,15 Raising awareness of and improving access to sleep equipment can benefit the diverse needs of the student population.

  3. Develop and implement a harm reduction model to sleep deprivation.
    A harm reduction model is founded on principles and strategies designed to minimize the harmful effects of high-risk behaviors, most notably substance use.16 Sleep deprivation has serious short- and long- term consequences, including a negative impact on students’ ability to succeed academically and personally. Very few interventions have demonstrated improved sleep among college students; thus, applying a harm reduction model acknowledges that college students experience irregular sleep patterns and sleep deprivation as they try to balance school, work, extracurricular activities, and family life.17 Studies have shown that daytime napping can increase motor and mental performance; following a daytime napping session, there are more rapid motor responses, higher levels of short-term memory, positive benefits to psychological states (e.g., cheerful, energetic), and less reported sleepiness18,19 – all of which can contribute to positive academic performance.1,17 While naps do not make up for inadequate or poor-quality nighttime sleep, a short nap of 20-30 minutes has been shown to improve mood, alertness, and performance,4,5 thereby helping students reduce the harmful effects of inadequate sleep.

  4. Enhance NYU Student Health Center systems for the identification and treatment of underlying health or mental health issues that may impact sleep or manifest as sleep difficulties.
    Many physical and psychological health issues manifest themselves as fatigue or poor sleep.20,21 Sleep difficulties among college students are commonly caused by poor sleep habits or underlying psychosocial issues, including stress, relationship problems, depression, anxiety, and alcohol use.20 As a result of NYU’s award-winning collaborative care model, NYU Student Health Center clinicians are uniquely positioned to provide educational counseling on sleep hygiene, offer high-quality diagnostic services, or address the more sensitive psychosocial topics in the context of sleep. The NYU Student Health Center will continue to enhance clinical systems to address efficiently and effectively the underlying health or mental health issues that impact sleep.