During the fall semester, the University of St. Thomas Wellness Center provided an opportunity to help bring awareness of the importance of sleep and to create meaningful behavior change for students.

For 21 days, 89 students participated in the “Get more ZZZ’s to Get more A’s” Sleep Challenge.

Students received a sleep mask, chamomile tea, and a sleep app that tracked their sleep through the their smartphones. The app provided quantitative feedback of the quality of sleep that documented the sleep cycle pattern for each student.

Each student who tracked their sleep for 7 consecutive days was awarded a raffle ticket, which created incentive to track each night to be awarded 3 tickets. Also, students were awarded an additional ticket for attending one of two challenge breakfasts, hosted by the Wellness Center, where they could check in with their progress and eat a healthy breakfast before class. Additionally, the Wellness Center provided resources for students to meet for a one-on-one professional sleep chat to receive advice and suggestions to ensure the best night’s rest. At the end of the challenge, the students progress and participation tickets were entered into a raffle for 10 gift cards.

Prior to the challenge, students’ primary concerns were the amount and quality of their sleep, as well as their lack of consistency in waking up and going to bed. Eighty-eight percent of students claimed to witness a change in these concerns at the completion of the challenge.

Upon completion of the challenge, several improvements were noted:

  • Participants saw an average increase of 0.3 hours of sleep per night.
  • There was an overall improvement of 23% on the rating of total sleep quality.
  • 73% of students reported waking up at the same time for 5 or more days of the week after the challenge.
  • 94% of students decreased the amount of reported time it took them to fall asleep at the completion of the challenge.
  • Participants were educated on the academic benefits of adequate sleep, best sleep environment, and importance of sleep as part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • 48 of the students said they are likely to continue using the sleep app.

Another challenge is scheduled for spring, which may include a friendly competition focused on the hours of sleep, and also incorporate meditation.