BACKGROUND: Undergraduate students tend to develop "evening-type" sleep patterns. Recent research has reported that evening-type and irregular sleep habits are related to physical and mental stress responses, particularly in female students. Although the connection between sleep habits and the stress response has been well documented, the mechanism behind this relationship is currently unknown. Using the transactional model as a framework and female students as our target population, we examined whether sleep habits predict the stress response through the mediation of cognitive appraisals of one's own sleep habits. METHODS: Three hundred twenty-one Japanese female college students participated in this study. Participants completed measures of their sleep habits (sleep patterns and sleep irregularity), cognitive appraisals of their sleep habits (including four subscales: commitment, appraisal of influence, appraisal of threat, and controllability), stress responses (depression and anxiety), and control factors. The reliability and validity of the scales used in this study, except for sleep pattern and sleep irregularity, were confirmed in previous studies. RESULTS: Multiple-mediation-model analysis indicated that commitment mediates the relationship between sleep pattern and anxiety. Meanwhile, cognitive appraisals, as a whole, were found to have a mediating effect on the relationship between sleep irregularity and depression. CONCLUSIONS: Our study revealed that cognitive appraisals mediated the relationship between sleep habits and the stress response. The findings also suggest that maintaining a low level of commitment might be effective for reducing anxiety, especially considering the difficulty associated with changing lifestyles. The findings of the present study should be useful for health education related to lifestyle.
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