Sleep disturbance, mental health, wellbeing and educational impact in UK university students: a mixed methods study

Rebecca Stores, Skaiste Linceviciute, Karen Pilkington, Damien Ridge

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Sleep disturbance has harmful psychological and physical effects and due to a range of biopsychosocial and environmental factors, university students are at an increased risk. Despite the importance of this topic, it is under-researched, especially in the UK. The objectives of this study were (1) to investigate the occurrence and nature of sleep disturbance in a sample of UK undergraduate university students, (2) to compare the incidence of sleep disturbance in first- and third-year students, (3) to explore associations between sleep disturbance, daytime sleepiness, mental health and wellbeing and (4) to obtain details on how participants felt their sleep habits affected both their health and wellbeing and their education and learning. A mixed methods approach was used to collect and analyse both quantitative and qualitative data using an online survey of widely used scales (quantitative) and free text open-ended questions (qualitative). Responses were obtained from 153 undergraduate students. Quantitative findings revealed relatively high levels of disturbed sleep, daytime sleepiness, depression, anxiety and reduced wellbeing in the sample studied. Significant associations were found between all these dimensions. Qualitative findings provided insight into how students felt sleep disruption affected their health and wellbeing and their education and learning, and the serious impact this had in many cases. Insights were also obtained on strategies they used to improve sleep quality. Effective treatments for sleep problems could have beneficial effects on associated mental health and wellbeing problems and educational attainment. Student mental health services and interventions should be aware of this possibility.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Early online date15 May 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 15 May 2023


  • Sleep
  • mental health
  • education
  • university students

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