Date Presented 04/01/2022

The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of anxiety on perceived sleep quality in graduate students during coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This research examined perceived sleep quality, amount of sleep, and reasons why increased anxiety due to COVID-19 is affecting sleep among graduate students. This research will help advance the field of OT by increasing the understanding of why OT interventions can benefit the health and well-being of graduate students.

Primary Author and Speaker: Barbra Katerberg

Additional Authors and Speakers: Jenna Walczak

Contributing Authors: Olivia Morgan Kaercher

It’s not uncommon for graduate students to experience increased levels of anxiety when compared to the general population due to high educational expectations and demands. Consequently, when their educational experiences have fundamentally shifted due to COVID-19 with home isolation orders, it is reasonable that anxiety levels in these students will increase. COVID-19 also has had a perceived impact on the relationship between self-report anxiety and sleep quality. There have been many studies conducted that associate the relationship between anxiety and sleep quality in this population, but there is limited research that has examined the effects of COVID-19 on these factors. This study analyzed anxiety levels in graduate students during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they influenced sleep quality in this population. This mixed-methods study included 52 graduate students in the Occupational Therapy program at Davenport University. The Adult Manifest Anxiety Scale for College Students is a 48 question survey consisting of yes/no questions that gathered information on areas such as general worry, physiological anxiety, and test anxiety. Additionally, participants were given the Survey of Factors and Perceived Impact of COVID-19 on Anxiety, which is a student-created tool that assessed how different life factors have been impacted by the pandemic. The collected qualitative data was analyzed through Excel software. This data from the anxiety construct was used to inform the impact of COVID-19 on sleep quality in graduate students. The results of this study were obtained in March of 2021. This study revealed a trend in increasing anxiety as sleep quality decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic in the participants. It also showed that total anxiety scores were the highest among students that were averaging less than eight hours of sleep per night and consistently lower in students averaging eight or more hours per night. Total anxiety scores were also higher in students who rated their perceived quality of sleep as poor or very poor, which reflected that increased levels of anxiety negatively impacted graduate students’ quality of sleep. Overall, due to limited research on COVID-19, the findings of this study are important in creating and modifying techniques to enhance the educational experience of graduate students. Further addressing these impacts is essential in improving the academic performance of this population, to ensure Occupational Therapy students are able to perform to their highest degree while preparing for the Occupational Therapy health profession.


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