Struggling to Manage Your Time in College? Here’s How the Imbalance Could Be Affecting Your Sleep, a New Study Says

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Another college year is just around the corner and that calls for planners and calendars for students — at least for some of them. 

A new study conducted at The University of Alabama, that was published in the American Journal of Health Education, found that college students who struggled to get organized, lacked time management, and did not plan accordingly wound up having poor sleep. (1)

The associate professor of health science at the University of Alabama College of Human Environmental sciences, Dr. Adam Knowlden, was one of the main researchers of this study where he wanted to look further into how the effects of lack of time management can leak into one’s sleep. 

With 60 percent of college students claiming they get poor sleep, Dr. Knowlden analyzed all the ideal priorities for a student, including things  like creating a list of goals, organizing work and priorities, and managing time to compare the difference between planning ahead and not — particularly how it affected their sleep.(1)

“College students tend to deal with lifestyle-related sleep problems,” Dr. Knowlden wrote, in the study. “For example, balancing academic and social obligations can be challenging for college students. Stress and anxiety also impact college students and we know that stress can impact the sleep quality college students receive by causing insomnia.” (1)

The study concluded that three factors were associated with the poor sleep quality. These factors were specifically related to time management. Dr. Knowden said that 20 percent of the poor sleep quality reported by the students came from poor time management skills. 

“Among the three factors, having a preference for organization was the most crucial factor influencing sleep quality,” Dr. Knowlden said. “This suggests that individuals who prioritize and maintain an organized environment tend to experience better sleep quality.”

With school starting in just a couple of weeks, you want your sleep health to be right on track so you can be more productive and be your most confident self when you get back to hitting the books. So, if this is the case, we brought in an expert to tell us some ways on how to get more organized for school so your sleep doesn’t become jeopardized.

Get Your Sleep Health and Organization Skills Back On Track

Burnout is a common symptom in college, especially after weeks of exams or homework assignments. However, Dr. Christopher Hansen, LPC from Thriveworks in San Antonio said it also happens when you don’t balance your time accordingly, leading to lack of sleep. 

“People who are organized and stick to a schedule tend to feel more in control as well as tend to have an internal locus of control and their lives are generally less stressful and chaotic which in turn equates to better sleep patterns,” he told Sleepopolis.

Hansen said that organizational skills are essential to learn at a young age, specifically around juggling multiple tasks such as homework, activities, and sports. 

When time management is not learned early on in life, it can lead college students struggling to be responsible for themselves without the help of their parents. 

“Whereas children who do not learn these skills early on, often struggle in college because they are presented with the fact that they are solely responsible for getting to class, doing homework and other “adult” things that many times have been monitored and aided by parents, teachers etc,” he said. “In college, what you do or don’t do is totally your responsibility and there is no oversight of parents or other authority figures.”

And the other factor Hansen said we did not see coming. Wonder what it is? Lack of freedom could prevent the development of time management and organization skills  because some people were never responsible for themselves. 

“A lot of teens who have been overly protected, over disciplined, and not allowed a bit of freedom and autonomy as a child get to college and have problems because they are experiencing a freedom they have never had before which can get them into trouble,” he said. 

If you are a college student or a parent of a college student, there are some pieces of advice you can take from Hansen to consider. 

He said that if you feel the stress and anxiety taking over your life, don’t be hesitant to talk to a college counselor or therapist. 

“It is also crucial to talk to children before college (especially if they’re living away from home) that it is a sign of strength to ask for help if they need it and there is no shame in admitting you need help with things such as organization, schedules, academics and other challenges,” he said.

Don’t let your tasks and assignments get in the way of your sleep. With a little help, you can feel more relaxed when doing your work and also get a good night’s sleep. 

  • Hansen, Christopher. Personal Interview. August 9, 2024.

  • 1. Knowlden AP, Naher S. Poor time management causes poor sleep for college students. ScienceDaily. August 8, 2024. Accessed August 10, 2024.

Ava Girardi

Ava Girardi

Ava Girardi is an Editorial News Intern for Sleepopolis. She loves writing about all things sleep from viral bedtime routines on TikTok to studies on sleep quality that will help you get the most helpful information to achieve that perfect bedtime routine. Ava is currently studying at Elon University where she is a double major in journalism and media analytics. When she is not writing, Ava is spending time with friends or family, running, or trying new yummy foods.

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