Sleep, social relationships and wellbeing in UK undergraduate students

Supervisor: Dr Lucy Foulkes

A) Rationale for the project

Poor sleep quality is common in university students, and increases the risk of mental illness and poor academic attainment. A recent study indicated that sleeping in close proximity to peers, as occurs in university flats and houses, may have a negative impact on sleep quality in undergraduate students. This is unsurprising, since this population are still adolescents and that during this period, establishing peer relationships is a key developmental task. In addition, other people are known to disrupt sleep in older adults and children. However, more research now needs to be done to better understand how students affect each other’s sleep at university, and whether anything can be done about this.

B) References that should be read (if you do not have access to these, please email

Lund, H. G., Reider, B. D., Whiting, A. B. & Prichard, J. R. Sleep Patterns and Predictors of Disturbed Sleep in a Large Population of College Students. J. Adolesc. Health 46, 124–132 (2010).

Harvey, A. G., Stinson, K., Whitaker, K. L., Moskovitz, D. & Virk, H. The subjective meaning of sleep quality: a comparison of individuals with and without insomnia. Sleep 31, 383–393 (2008).

Gomes, A. A., Tavares, J. & de Azevedo, M. H. P. Sleep and Academic Performance in Undergraduates: A Multi-measure, Multi-predictor Approach. Chronobiol. Int. 28, 786–801 (2011).

Freeman, D. et al. The effects of improving sleep on mental health (OASIS): a randomised controlled trial with mediation analysis. Lancet Psychiatry 4, 749–758 (2017).

Sawyer, S. M., Azzopardi, P. S., Wickremarathne, D. & Patton, G. C. The age of adolescence. Lancet Child Adolesc. Health 2, 223–228 (2018).

Crone, E. A. & Dahl, R. E. Understanding adolescence as a period of social–affective engagement and goal flexibility. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 13, 636–650 (2012).

Rogojanski, J., Carney, C. E. & Monson, C. M. Interpersonal factors in insomnia: A model for integrating bed partners into cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. Sleep Med. Rev. 17, 55–64 (2013).

Jenni, O. G., Fuhrer, H. Z., Iglowstein, I., Molinari, L. & Largo, R. H. A Longitudinal Study of Bed Sharing and Sleep Problems Among Swiss Children in the First 10 Years of Life. Pediatrics 115, 233–240 (2005).

C) Research aims / questions

The primary aim is to understand how peers affect sleep quality in undergraduate students, and the individual difference variables that influence the extent to which peers affect sleep.

D) Methods

There is scope to use a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodology in this project, although the focus will be on quantitative.Possible analysis techniques include linear modelling and social network analysis. The student will have the opportunity to learn skills in programming and statistical analysis using software such as MATLAB and R, and experimental task design.