Education-plus June 2018 | 超越教育 2018年6月

I n recent years, Dr Esther Lau Yuet-ying, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, has conducted multiple studies on sleep health among Hong Kong college students. In a 2017 study funded by the Health and Medical Research Fund, she found that 62.2 per cent of local undergraduate students were classified as poor sleepers, extending her previous finding of inadequate sleep of 6.6 hours each night for the average student. While there is a growing volume of research that links poor sleep to glitches in life, from worsening memory to emotional irritation, Dr Lau has taken it one step further by looking at the relationship between sleep deprivation and long-term personality changes in her research project on sleep health, with funding support from the General Research Fund under the Research Grants Council. “It’s rather easy to see that if you don’t wake up refreshed, or have had no sleep at all, you may feel a bit gloomy and irritated, and your brain may not function the way it should. But what is its long-term impact?” This question led her to conduct research that lasted 19 months and covered more than 1,600 full-time university students in Hong Kong and Macau. Their sleep quality and subsequent views about life were chronicled through a series of online surveys conducted throughout the period. Using the commonly adopted Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index, Dr Lau discovered that Hong Kong university students attained an average score of 5.98 in sleep quality; a score of “5” or greater is indicative of poor sleep quality. She describes this as a “sleep-loss epidemic”. Poor sleepers reported problems such as interrupted sleep, short duration of sleep, difficulty falling asleep and waking up tired. The findings were published in Chronobiology International , a scientific journal on biological and medical rhythm, in 2017. The study also revealed a link between lack of sleep and the subjects’ negativity. At the end of the study, night owls who slept poorly reported frustration, stress, irritation, lack of motivation, and a tendency to overreact to challenges – characteristics that are linked to pessimistic personality traits. “The current research tells us that sleep predicts whether a person is optimistic or pessimistic over a period of time. Optimism is related to so many things, from motivation to learn to social functioning and resilience, such as how well a person responds to challenges in life,” Dr Lau said. Since university students are considered to be an age group prone to mood disorders, sleep health is particularly important, she added, saying that the average university student should sleep seven to nine hours a day consistently. Wake-up Call for More Sleep 正視睡眠 Getting adequate sleep may seem like a matter of common sense. But it is easier said than done, and many are simply unable to abide by this sensible rule in life, especially university students, whose academic and hall life can result in constant sleep deprivation. 人需要充足睡眠已是老生常談,但知易行難,不少人難以遵守這明智的生活準則,當中又 以大學生為甚,因為忙碌的學業和宿舍生活常常造成睡眠不足。 10