Sleep is an important factor in well-being, especially during the transition to college when academic and social commitments increase. Identifying factors that contribute to poor sleep (including short duration and increased variability in duration) can support development of interventions. Affect and emotion reactivity are factors that could contribute to sleep, and have not been studied in relation to sleep variables among first-year college students during their adjustment to the college environment. This adjustment might be difficult for some students, and therefore elicit affect fluctuations that contribute to poor sleep. Alternatively, sleep could contribute to daily affect. The present daily diary study examined bidirectional relations between daily sleep and affect, as well as between emotion reactivity and sleep (duration and variability) and affect (daily and overall variability) in first-year college students.
First-year college students (n = 244; 86.1% female) completed a baseline survey including measures of emotion reactivity and anxiety and depressive symptoms, followed by 7 days of a once-per-day diary, reporting on their affect and sleep duration.
On days when individuals reported increased sleep duration, they also tended to experience greater positive affect the following day (p = .01). Those who experienced high levels of emotion reactivity also experienced more negative affect (p < .001) and negative affect variability (p < .001).
Emotion reactivity might identify college students who experience more negative affect and are possibly at risk to develop mental health disorders. The importance of sleep health should continue to be emphasized to students as they transition to college.