Promoting mental health in students: Is there a role for sleep?

Jason Ellis*, Pauline Fox

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Independently both the role of being a student and reporting insufficient or unsatisfactory sleep have been shown to have deleterious consequences on mental health. However, few studies have examined the combined relationship between students' sleep patterns specifically with mental health in mind, and how individual psychological characteristics and situational factors can influence this relationship. The purpose of this research was to examine the relationship between sleep functioning and students' levels of perceived stress over the course of an exam period. Additionally, the influence of perfectionism (as an individual characteristic) and daytime sleep-related intrusive thoughts (sleep catastrophising) on sleep functioning and stress were also examined. Two assumptions were tested. Firstly, that stress would increase between baseline and the morning of the exam and secondly, that this relationship would be moderated by poor sleep functioning, sleep catastrophising and levels of perfectionism. Levels of stress, steep functioning and steep catastrophising were examined over a seven-day period in 48 Access to Higher Education students about to take an exam and 44 non-exam taking controls. For the exam group, levels of stress and sleep catastrophising increased between time-points. At baseline higher reported perfectionism predicted stress scores. Conversely, low perfectionism predicted high stress on the morning of the exam. Additionally, going to bed later and high levels of sleep catastrophising were also related to stress levels the morning of the exam. The results suggest an association between perfectionism and pre-exam stress, and are discussed in terms of mental health promotion for higher education students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-133
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of The Royal Society for the Promotion of Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes


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