College students may not have a reputation for the best sleep habits, but a recently published study indicates cigarette and e-cigarette use isn’t doing them any favors.
Researchers at Oklahoma State University’s Behavior Change Lab surveyed 1,664 college students — 41 percent of whom reported ever trying or currently using e-cigarettes and 29 percent of whom reported ever trying or currently using traditional cigarettes. The study determined that sleep scores were poor across the board, but smokers and vapers faired worse, with the latter reporting more prevalent use of sleep medications.
Dr. Emma Brett was among the researchers who worked on the project. She said her interest in student alcohol use eventually led her to study nicotine use and the growing e-cigarette trend. While the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use remain unknown, on account of being a relatively new phenomenon, Brett said that doesn’t prevent researchers from studying short-term effects.
“We know that with some of the e-cig research that’s coming out that students have wide ranges of perceptions about how harmful they might be,” she said. “The idea is if we know some of those effects and can incorporate them into prevention and intervention efforts, not using scare tactics but giving people the full picture, hopefully we can correct some of those perceptions so at least people are informed about the risks.”
Now a post doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago, Brett said she would like to continue her collaboration with the Behavior Change Lab at OSU.
“I think this study is the first step,” she said. “I would love to continue to pursue this area and I think others in the Behavior Change Lab would be interested in pursing this, so hopefully we can continue to collaborate and look into this.”
A recent string of mysterious lung ailments and deaths doctors believe to be linked to e-cigarettes use has again thrust the controversial nicotine delivery systems back under the public health microscope. Dr. Thad Leffingwell, OSU psychology department head, said he expects that scrutiny to continue.
“I would say that the presumed safety of e-cigarettes is becoming less of a safe presumption over time,” he said. “We definitely need to keep studying that and gathering more data.“Most of what’s killing our population today is our own behavior. And so the frontier for improving health in the future is shifting our behavior away from things that damage our health.”