CM Westbrooks


Christina Marie Westbrooks. Elon University, Elon, NC.

Background: Approximately 60% of college students suffer from poor sleep quality and high variability in sleep duration. Similarly, poor mental health (e.g., anxiety, depression, and acute stress) is a growing problem in this population, as diagnoses of mental health disorders are on the rise in college students. The transition from high school to college is a period of dramatic environmental changes, social upheaval, and psychological stressors which often lead new college students to make poor choices with regard to their lifestyle behaviors. However, little is known regarding the potentially bidirectional relationship between changes in sleep and the development of mental health issues during the transition from high school to college, or whether other lifestyle changes (e.g., alcohol consumption) impact this relationship. Accordingly, the primary aim of this study is to identify how changes in sleep during the transition from high school to college impact mental health. A secondary aim is to examine how changes in other lifestyle-related behaviors such as alcohol consumption may mediate the association between changes in sleep and mental health. Methods: This prospective longitudinal study will assess changes in sleep, alcohol consumption, and mental health in a sample of 75 high school seniors aged 17-18 (50% female) at study entry. Baseline testing will occur in the spring semester of senior year in high school and follow up testing will occur during the first semester of college. Stress will be assessed using the perceived stress scale, as an acute marker of mental health. Characteristics of sleep will be measured via the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and Sleep Hygiene Index. The alcohol use disorders identification test will be used to screen alcohol consumption. Aims will be assessed using linear regression. Anticipated Results: We anticipate that perceived stress will increase over the transition from high school to college and that changes in sleep quantity, quality, and variability will be associated with these increases. Lastly, we anticipate alcohol consumption as individuals enter the college setting to affect sleep quality and variability in sleep duration.

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