Perceived Sleep Quality and Sleepiness in South African University Students


Reid A, Baker FC. Perceived Sleep Quality and Sleepiness in South African University Students. South African Journal of Psychology. 2008;38(2):287-303. doi:10.1177/008124630803800203


Little is known about the sleep habits of South African students. The objectives in this study were to evaluate sleep habits and daytime behaviours of South African university students and to examine possible factors associated with their sleep quality and daytime sleepiness. Nine hundred and eighty-six undergraduate students completed a questionnaire about their sleep and lifestyle habits over the previous month, and their fatigue-related driving history. Sleep habits were similar for male and female students, although male students went to bed later and had fewer night-time awakenings. Black students went to bed significantly later than white and Asian students and woke earlier than white students during the week; consequently they were more likely to have a shorter time in bed than white students. Black students were more likely to nap than white students, possibly to supplement their overall sleep amount. Sleep quality and daytime sleepiness were not influenced by gender or ethnicity. Twenty percent of the students reported having ever fallen asleep while driving and 2% reported having had a fatigue-related accident; these findings have implications for road safety. Eighteen percent of the students reported poor sleep quality, although few students (4%) had consulted a doctor about a sleeping problem. Logistic multiple regression modeling revealed that poor sleep quality was associated with the following factors: long sleep onset latency; night-time awakenings; late bed times; use of sleep medication; not getting enough sleep; and low energy. Based on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, 44% of the students had a high propensity for daytime sleepiness, which was associated with not getting enough sleep, consuming more caffeinated beverages, daytime napping, and having no/little energy. Daytime sleepiness and associated factors in South African students need to be investigated further and it is recommended that students be better informed about sleep problems and their consequences. First-line help-professionals such as psychologists, doctors, and healthcare workers should be better trained to support students with sleep problems.

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