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Student-Faculty Sleep Research Published, Presented

A recent study conducted at St. Lawrence University by Pamela Thacher, associate professor of psychology, and Alexis Reinheimer '15 found that people who hoard objects tend to sleep worse than those who don't keep too much clutter.

The study showed that participants at risk of hoarding disorder, a condition where people acquire excessive objects and are unable or unwilling to discard them, scored significantly higher on the Sleep Habits Survey and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, including sleep latency, sleep disturbances and daytime disturbances.

“Hoarders typically have problems with decision making and executive function,” Thacher said. “Poor sleep is known to compromise cognition generally. So if hoarders have cluttered/unusable bedrooms (and less comfortable, functional beds), any existing risk for cognitive dysfunction, depression and stress may increase as sleep quality worsens.”

The study, published in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and presented on June 8 at the joint American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society SLEEP 2015 annual meeting held in Seattle, involved asking study participants about their hoarding, sleep and clutter. Eighty-three people were considered at risk for hoarding disorder based on their score on the Clutter and Hoarding Rating Scale, while 198 were considered minimally or not at risk for hoarding disorder.

Alexis, a recent graduate from Middletown, New York, majored in psychology and had received a Daniel F. '65 and Ann H. Sullivan Endowment for Student/Faculty Research University Fellowship in summer 2014. The study became part of her senior-year experience.

The student-faculty research team collected data from a sample of respondents from Amazon's Mechanical Turk website. Their advertisement asked for those interested in hoarding, sleep, or clutter, whether or not they had problems with these areas.

Their study has become a popular Internet posting, including on Today.com, Yahoo! Health an the U.K.'s Daily Mail.