Introduction Sleep disturbance among students has become a growing concern because of its adverse effects on cognitive function, mental health, and quality of life. Previous research showed that University students report significantly poorer sleep hygiene compared to the general population (Hershner, 2020).1 However, the sleep hygiene and quality of UK university students remain unclear. Here, we explore the specific behavioural factors associated with poor sleep among University students in the UK.
Methods A cross-sectional survey design was employed to collect data from university students, including questions regarding sleep patterns, sleep quality, and sleep hygiene. Participants were recruited through University societies, and data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, unsupervised machine learning and regression analysis.
Results Our data included 892 students, (71.4% female, 24.3% male and 4.3% other), mainly from the Universities of Leicester (68.5%) and Cambridge (12.9%). Most students (60.4%), aged between 18 and 21 years old, slept for an average of 8.08 (s.d. = 2.1) hours and reported a tiredness score of 6.24 (s.d. = 1.71). We found that the sleep hygiene index was significantly correlated with self-reported tiredness (𝛽 =0.09, s.e. = 0.02, P < 0.0001), while accounting for covariates. We then used unsupervised learning to identify the main features of sleep hygiene linked to poor sleep, and found that irregular sleep patterns were the main features of poor sleep. The second most important component of poor sleep hygiene in this cohort was linked to stress.
Discussion Our results highlight the importance of providing guidance on regular sleep schedules and stress related interventions for students. We are currently evaluating the effectiveness of interventions targeting these behavioural factors to improve sleep outcomes in the student population.
Hershner S. Sleep and academic performance: Measuring the impact of sleep. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 2020;33:51–56.
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