A woman writing with a pencil in a book. She is resting on her arm in a sleeping position.
Project Lead
Jennifer Johnson
Project team members
Simon Durrant
Rachel Spacey
Kirsty Miller
Project start date
8th January, 2018
Project end date
30th January, 2018

Teaching & Learning Innovation

Student Sleep Habits: Implications for Higher Education

This project examined student sleep habits and the learning implications within a group of students studying for an undergraduate degree.  Focus groups were conducted to ask the students about their typical sleep habits which were then thematically analysed and became the basis of a larger-scale survey. The self-reported questionnaire results were then assessed against objective sleep measures.

This project adopted a mixed-methods approach to explore student sleep habits and the implications for higher education, but its novelty can be ascertained through its assessment of not only the implications for higher education in terms of academic performance but also potential interventions that may benefit the student community within the university and beyond. This study provides a pilot for future research, as it directly addresses the issues with sleep in students and how changes in teaching or learning practices could better accommodate these for greater overall student success.

We are able to provide both quantitative and qualitative measures of student sleep habits and the implications for higher education. This mixed-methods approach allowed the students to talk freely and openly about their sleep habits, extrapolating the most important considerations for students to achieving academic success. We were also able to extend previous research findings by asking students about potential sleep interventions they would most benefit from – something missing from the research to date. This knowledge could be used in the future to modify teaching and practice within higher education to better suit the learning needs of the students by highlighting what could be changed specifically within the university to attempt to accommodate potential sleep problems. From this, we can encourage changes within higher education in an applied and impactful way. This provided a stable platform for our future work and the impact of the findings extend beyond a specific institution as it can potentially extend to higher education practices within UK institutions more generally.

To date, the project has been disseminated via an external presentation at the psyPAG (psychology postgraduate affairs group) annual conference. Postgraduate students from across the UK came together to share their research, providing the opportunity for networking with other members of the group and gauge an initial feel for the wider impact of the work. From this, the project was met with very positive feedback and encouragement to continue with this thread of work. Internally, the project results have been shared across the College and presented to the Governing Body showcasing the activity. The project outcomes have also become the basis of a journal publication which has been submitted to the journal Sleep, with approval and input from all team members. This collaborative work will form the basis of a larger-scale bid to continue the work further by the PIs of the project.