Adolescent perceptions of sleep and influences on sleep behaviour: A qualitative study

Sarah Godsell, Jo White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Introduction: Adolescent sleep deprivation is a growing public health problem. This qualitative study explores adolescents’ perceptions of sleep and sleep behaviour, enhancing the current limited body of qualitative research in this area. Methods: Thirty three 13–14 year olds (17 boys and 16 girls) from two schools in England participated in focus group discussions. Qualitative thematic analysis was used to identify and examine patterns emerging from the data. Results: Participants understood recommended sleep requirements for their age group and ‘sleep hygiene’ strategies, yet most reported getting insufficient sleep. Both boys and girls acknowledged the influence of peers on sleep behaviour. A common obstacle to sleep was distractions from electronic devices. Gender was identified as influencing behaviour, with boys more likely to report watching videos and gaming and girls reporting being distracted by communicating on their mobile phones. Anxious dependency on phones at night was reported by some girl participants. Parents were considered key ‘sleep messengers’ and rulesetters. A variability in parental involvement in sleep behaviour was identified and can be understood as at least partially related to new challenges posed by adolescent use of electronic devices. Conclusions: Findings highlight the importance of parental and peer involvement in supporting adolescents to secure healthy sleep. Endeavours to bring about sustained changes in adolescent sleep practices should be predicated on the role of parents/carers as sleep enforcers and the impact of peers, as well as responding to the gendered aspects of compromised sleep behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-25
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescence
StatePublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescence
  • Qualitative research
  • Schools
  • Sleep
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Social media


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