Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Madelyn Labella

Committee Members

Kathleen Jenkins

Meghan Quinn


It is well-known that college students have poor sleep habits; however, limited research has applied theoretical models to attempt to understand these habits. The present two studies apply social norms theory — which argues that people’s behavior is influenced by their perception of others’ behavior — to sleep habits, exploring the relationship between perceived descriptive norms and college students’ sleep habits. In both studies, college students (Study 1 N = 127; Study 2 N = 200) self-reported their sleep hygiene behaviors, sleep duration, and sleep quality, and then estimated the responses they believed the average student would provide. The second study added a measure of academic stress, compared weekend and weekday behavior, and surveyed students at two time points in the semester. Study 1 found that students overestimated the problematic sleep behaviors of other students and underestimated other students’ sleep duration and quality; additionally, students displayed worse sleep habits when they perceived other students’ habits to be worse. Study 2 replicated the findings of Study 1 and found that students’ weekday sleep behaviors were worse than their weekend behaviors. Additionally, increases in academic stress predicted increases in problematic sleep behaviors and decreases in quality but not duration. Together, these studies demonstrate that social norms theory is a useful framework for understanding sleep behaviors; given that past social norms theory research has found that correcting misperceptions improves behavior, future research could investigate interventions to improve student sleep habits using misperception correction. Additionally, the second study highlights the important role academic stress plays in college students’ poor sleep habits, suggesting that future interventions could improve sleep habits by reducing academic stress.

On-Campus Access Only