A survey conducted by The Student has found that 85 per cent of students get less than the recommended eight hours a night. This statistic therefore suggests that only 15 per cent get the minimum recommended average.
The NHS recommends eight hours but acknowledges that the optimum amount of sleep varies depending on the individual and is not an exact science. The NHS does, however, state that less than a full seven hours has been proven to increase weight gain and instances of depression, as well as increasing an individual’s chance of getting heart disease or diabetes.
Studies suggest getting six hours a night or less means you are 30 per cent more likely to develop obesity and other diet related conditions than your eight hour or more counterparts. This is because the body’s ability to produce leptin and ghrelin (the hunger hormones) is reduced, making you want to snack even on a full stomach.
If sleep is this important for overall health, we must examine why students aren’t getting enough of it. Our study found that the most common reason students gave detailing what was keeping them up was ‘going out or social activities.’ This was the expected reply and something that is a huge part of student life, yet the second most common response was somewhat more surprising. 72 per cent cited that they either watched YouTube or Netflix late at night and felt that this was a factor in keeping them awake. Screens have long been a cause of concern because of the ‘Blue Light’ they emit that is known to stimulate the brain, tricking it into thinking it is daytime. It thus takes significantly longer to fall asleep after watching a video than it does from reading a book.
Another common finding was using social media apps before sleep, coming in at 66.7 per cent. The negative effects of using social media apps before sleep are twofold. The first is the earlier explained ‘Blue Light Effect’, the second is the feelings of paranoia and anxiety induced as a result of seeing people’s best lives portrayed in pictures and the jarring speed at which unverified information is relayed to the brain via these platforms. These findings are drawn from an article recently published by Graham Davey, a psychology professor from the University of Sussex who has found that using social media apps especially before bedtime can increase feelings of ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) thus causing the user to worry at a time where they should be feeling increasingly more relaxed. Yet this habit can be a hard one to crack, as Davey states the addictiveness of Facebook has been found to be akin to that of crack cocaine.
Yet this was not the only addiction our study found that was interfering with sleep, as over 33 per cent of participants stated that online gaming was a factor preventing them from dropping off. IGD (Internet Gaming Disorder) is a psychiatric condition recognised by the American Psychiatric Association which was made a recognised disease by the World Health Organisation in 2017. Apart from addictive patterns, other significant factors that were recognised in the study were noise from flatmates preventing sleep (33.3 per cent), working late towards deadlines (50 per cent) and outside street noise (11 per cent).
The findings show that there are significant external and psychological factors outside of student’s control that are affecting sleep in a country that is at the head of international insomnia league tables, beating Ireland, Canada and the US.
Aviva Health UK concluded in a worldwide study that Brits are the worst sleepers in the world. The company’s General Director, Doctor Doug Wright recommends that we should not ignore lack of sleep in our daily lives and that anyone who has been struggling for a long period of time should see their GP.
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