Over a third of students are ‘chronically’ sleep deprived, study finds

  • Thursday, November 29, 2018

Nearly half of students report ‘bad’ or ‘fairly bad’ sleep, with over a third reporting fewer than 7 hours sleep on a typical weeknight in a new study by Dr Ray Norbury

For a large proportion of students, entering university is a major life-transition and is associated with many significant life adjustments. This period of emerging adulthood coupled with the major changes in environment and routine associated with starting at university may leave students at increased risk for developing sleep and mental health problems.

In a large multisite study, Dr Ray Norbury from the University of Roehampton's Department of Psychology, alongside colleagues from Surrey University, invited nearly 550 students to complete a survey that included questions about sleep, chronotype (are you an more of a morning person – an ‘early bird’ – or more of night time person – a ‘night owl’), lifestyle factors and anxiety.

Dr Norbury said, ‘Our research highlighted some interesting findings. The overwhelming majority of students we questioned were either night owls or intermediate chronotypes (somewhere between a night owl and an early bird). Nearly half rated their sleep as “bad” or “fairly bad” and over a third of the students were chronically sleep-deprived, reporting fewer than 7 hours of sleep on a typical weeknight. Poor sleep quality was more common in first year students and poor sleepers were more anxious than peers with better sleep quality. We cannot say that poor sleep increases anxiety, as our study was not designed to test causality, but we do think our work has important implications for how universities think about student wellbeing and mental health. Universities should actively consider later start-times, there is a need for better education on the importance of sleep quality (e.g. leaflets and workshops on sleep hygiene) supported by access to fully-trained and well-provisioned student counselling services, and examination timetables should take into consideration optimal performance times for university students and avoid early morning starts.’

A copy of the article, which has been published in the journal Psychiatry Research, can be found here.

The University of Roehampton’s Department of Psychology offers a wide range of courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

The impact of the research submitted by our Department of Psychology is rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (Research Excellence Framework 2014).