By Emma Videan
A new survey has found that 91% of students claim to suffer from poor sleep while being at university, and this can largely be blamed upon high stress levels. The reputation of students sleeping late and napping during lectures have been proved wrong as 65% of students are getting fewer than the necessary 7-9 hours sleep per night.
The study, run as part of The Student Housing Company’s wellbeing programme, analysed the sleeping patterns of students in major UK cities in the run up to World Sleep Day on Friday 16th March. The findings have raised concerns for national student welfare.
When asked what the biggest impact on sleep short-term was (across different nights of the week), 54% cited academic work. Almost half (45%) of students also admitted that their long-term sleeping patterns were worse around exam time and when deadlines are looming.
Overall 76% claimed that stress levels play a role in their quality of sleep, with digital distractions such as mobile phones, social media and TV cited by another 38%. The figures are despite the fact that half of those polled also take measures to ensure they’re living a healthy lifestyle, either by carefully monitoring their diet or by taking regular exercise.
On average students across the nation are getting just six and a half hours sleep per night, and 26% are getting fewer than 5 hours. With just 6 hours and 18 minutes per night students in Sheffield are suffering the most, and while students in Nottingham get the most sleep of those polled, they’re still falling below the recommended minimum of 7 hours per night.
The most alarming finding of the study was the lack of understanding that students appeared to have about the potential health implications that they might incur if they suffer with long-term sleep deprivation. While students may be aware of the mental health implications, they were seemingly naïve to the physical implications such as increased risk of diabetes, cancer and obesity. Only 7% of those surveyed knew that long-term sleep problems could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Lisa Artis, from the Sleep Council, which raises awareness of the impact that good sleep has on health and wellbeing said: “University can be a stressful time for students, and this directly impacts how they sleep. As we would expect, The Student Housing Company’s research showed a huge uplift in students sleeping poorly around times of high stress, such as in the build up to exams. However, a good night’s sleep is one of the most important tools for doing well in your studies. Perhaps most importantly, however, sleep is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle – and this is something that is often overlooked.”