At least one-third of human life is spent sleeping. It takes an important place in our lives because adequate sleep enables us to preserve our mental and physical health and to secrete growth hormones. Secreting growth hormones plays a role in achieving normal physical development, especially for people of developmental age. With developing technology, college students in particular tend to entertain themselves by chatting, shopping, and playing games online. Internet usage has greatly increased the use of smartphones before bed, and has become a bad habit for many people. For this reason, internet usage is the most important factor affecting sleep quality in college students. In general terms, sleep quality is the name given to the satisfaction a person receives from sleep.
Previous research has shown that female college students generally have lower quality of sleep than male students. Although this has been attributed to hormonal changes such as impaired sleep quality during menstruation, increased use of electronic products has also been shown to play an important role in reducing sleep quality in women.
Scientists in Taiwan wanted to understand the relationship between internet addiction and sleep quality in female students. The study was conducted with 503 female college students from a Technical Institute in Southern Taiwan between September and November of 2018. Participating female students completed a structural questionnaire consisting of three sections.The first part of the questionnaire included variables that may affect sleep quality, such as demography, body weight, body mass index, and habits of both tobacco and alcohol consumption. In the second part of the questionnaire, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index was used, which is a self-report questionnaire that evaluates sleep quality over a month. Lastly, an internet addiction test was used to evaluate the internet usage levels of female college students.
The results of the study showed that overuse of the internet can cause impaired sleep quality and shortened sleep duration. Internet overuse can also cause prolonged sleep latency, which is the period of time between being awake and sleeping. The relationship between internet addiction and sleep quality was studied by using a regression analysis between Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and internet addiction test scores. This data indicated that excessive use of the internet, losing self-control, and passion in online social activities harm an individual’s sleep quality. Besides, prolonged sleep latency was seen in participants with moderate to severe internet addiction. For example, playing games and watching movies before sleep stimulates the central nervous system and causes prolonged sleep latency. Also, exposure to blue light emitted from the screens suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that stimulates sleep anticipation in the brain at night. This excessive internet usage can cause sleep to be delayed.
The researchers were able to show that inadequate sleep has negative psychological and physiological effects. It was underlined that the increased tendency for negative emotions, anxiety, obesity, and dangerous behaviors were directly proportional to inadequate sleep. The negative impact of excessive internet use on the body’s normal physiological functions such as the symptoms of pain and physical discomfort can affect academic and work performance. Also, the researchers showed that there is a correlation between internet use and daytime dysfunction, suggesting that internet overuse harms daily activities such as driving, cycling, eating regularly, or attending daytime social activities.
The Taiwanese scientists concluded that internet addiction was a significant predictor of poor sleep quality. Participants with moderate to severe internet addiction had lower sleep quality compared to users with normal and mild internet addiction. Loss of self-control over the time spent on the internet, and tolerance to online social activities are strongly discouraged for college students due to all the negative contributors to sleep quality. However, it was suggested that female students should be more careful about excessive internet use. The authors suggested that this study also provides a reference for educational institutions to understand the importance of sleep quality in college students so that they can take precautions against the negative effects of internet use.