Sleep, problematic smartphone use and mental toughness: exploring the effectiveness of a school-based sleep promotion intervention
Mac Cárthaigh, Saoirse
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Background and Aims: Sleep is a protective factor against mental and physical ill health. However, evidence suggests that a minority of adolescents meet the established sleep duration recommendations. In addition, evidence suggests that, among adolescents, problematic smartphone use has contributed to a decline in sleep quality and duration. Research suggests that the psychological construct of mental toughness is associated with sleep quality. As such, this project had several aims. First, to determine whether a school-based sleep promotion intervention could increase sleep duration, sleep quality and mental toughness among school-age adolescents. Second, to determine whether the intervention could reduce problematic smartphone use. Methods: A school-based sleep promotion intervention was adapted from two evidence-based interventions (Barber & Cucalon, 2017; Brown et al., 2006). Adaptations were informed by the Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 1985). A quasi-experimental, pre-test-post-test design with a wait-list control was employed. Thirty-six middle-adolescent female participants completed validated measures of sleep quality, sleep hygiene, problematic smartphone use and mental toughness. Objective sleep data were collected using the Xiaomi Mi-Band 4. Results: There was a statistically significant improvement in sleep quality post intervention with a medium-to-large effect size. This effect was sustained at follow-up. Although there was a post-intervention increase in objective sleep duration, this change did not reach statistical significance (p = .051). There was tentative evidence that the improvements in sleep quality may have been driven by improved sleep stability and reduced physiological, cognitive and emotional arousal. There was tentative evidence that the intervention reduced objectively measured screen time, and that this effect was maintained at follow-up. No statistically significant changes in mental toughness or subjective problematic smartphone use were detected. An exit survey indicated that participants found the intervention engaging, acceptable, appropriate and feasible. Conclusions: This theory-informed, school-based sleep promotion intervention improves subjective sleep quality among a cohort of middle-adolescent females in Ireland. Further research is needed to determine the robustness of the effect of the intervention on sleep duration and screen time. School-based sleep promotion interventions do not appear to be an effective means of increasing mental toughness.
Problematic smartphone use