Poor sleeping habits linked to student mental health; Study

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Desk Reporter
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According to a new study, more than two-thirds of students have poor sleep quality and this is related to mental health issues.

The research was published in the peer-reviewed journal Annals of Human Biology. The findings show those reporting depressive symptoms were almost four times as likely to suffer from inadequate sleep habits.

Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) was an issue for more than half of the students and they were almost twice as likely to be depressed or have moderate to high levels of stress. Furthermore, the study reveals a gender gap, with poor sleep quality and EDS being more common in women.

The authors warn “stressors, such as course demands, make college students vulnerable to sleep disorders which in turn affect academic performance and health.” They’re urging universities to do more to promote healthy sleeping habits and mental well-being.

“Sleep disorders are especially harmful to college students because they’re associated with several negative effects on academic life,” says lead author Dr. Paulo Rodrigues from the Faculty of Nutrition, Federal University of Mato Grosso, Brazil.

Dr. Rodrigues commented, “These include failures in attention and perception, high absenteeism rate, and sometimes dropping out of the course. The university environment offers greater exposure to factors that may compromise sleep habits such as academic stress and social life. It’s crucial to evaluate and monitor sleep habits, mental health, and the quality of life of students to reduce the risk of developing other chronic diseases.”

“University managers should plan the implementation of institutional actions and policies. This is to stimulate the development of activities that promote good sleep habits and benefit students’ mental health,” he further added.

Students are vulnerable to a lack of quality slumber at night due to circumstances such as living away from home for the first time, consuming stimulants that affect sleep and having unpredictable bedtimes. An average of seven hours of sleep has been reported by those attending college when nine hours is considered ideal for young adults.

The authors surveyed 1,113 undergraduates and post-graduates aged from 16 to 25 years who were enrolled in a range of studies at the Federal University of Mato Grosso in Brazil. Participants were asked about their sleep quality, EDS, socioeconomic status, and their body mass index (BMI) was also assessed.

The data was used to estimate the level of association between poor sleep quality or EDS, and depressive symptoms, and perceived stress levels. The results showed a significant link between these factors, and depressive issues and moderate to high-stress levels.

A correlation was discovered between poor sleep quality and the degree course discipline, in addition to the findings on gender. Students studying biological and health sciences, as well as those studying social and human sciences, were more likely to be affected.

According to the statement, “The mechanism behind sleep disturbance and depression is not unclear, as is whether mental health issues trigger poor quality sleep (or vice versa).” Hence, the authors suggest that more research is needed to understand this interaction better.

Related: Lack of good sleep can affect the way you walk: Study