How Online Learning Has Affected Sleep for Students

Dr. Dan JensenSleep

How Online Learning Has Affected Sleep for Students
Dr. Dan Jensen

Are you a college student, or do you have a student in the family? In the past year, children, teens, and adults have been learning online. And after reviewing the data, it seems that online learning has affected sleep for many students. Learning online could lead to less sleep overall as well as poor sleep quality. Here’s how.

Sleeping During the Semester

For college students throughout the country, COVID-19 had a big impact. It turns out that both sleep timing and sleep duration change for students who have been learning online. A new study from Simon Fraser University looks at how remote learning has impacted sleep. Researchers followed 80 university students who were studying remotely and compared their sleep to over 450 students who took the same class before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, the researchers from SFU’s Circadian Rhythms and Sleep Lab discovered some concerning trends. College students studying remotely have been sleeping less. The online students went about 30 minutes later than students taking the in-person class. Students also had worse sleep during the night.

Why are Online Students Sleeping Less?

One reason that online students may be sleeping less overall is that the online schedule is impacting their circadian rhythm. This is your body’s 24-hour internal clock. It tells your body when to feel tired, when to sleep, and when to wake up. Usually, this rhythm follows natural sunlight. You feel more awake and alert in the morning, and you feel sleepy in the evening.

However, online students spend more time at home and less time outside. They also spend more time online. This can be very problematic if students spend a lot of time in front of their screen in the evening. In fact, the blue light from their screens can impact the natural circadian rhythm. This light mimics sunlight and makes it harder for students to fall asleep.

Delaying Sleep

The SFU researchers found that poor sleep quality could also be explained by the delayed sleep. Students who went to sleep later usually got up later as well. However, this further upset the natural circadian rhythm, making it harder for students to get enough sleep, or feel well-rested during the day.

How to Sleep Better

There are a few solutions to delayed sleep and poor sleep quality, especially if you’re an online student. One of the best things you can do for your sleep is to get outside in the morning. Exposing yourself to natural sunlight early in the day can help you stabilize your circadian rhythm and reset your sleep. For example, going for a short walk in the morning can make you feel more energized, help you have a more productive day, and help you have better quality sleep.

Stick to a Sleep Schedule

Another great way to promote healthy sleep is by sticking to a consistent sleep schedule. If you can set a habit of sleeping that maximizes your time in natural light, you’ll have an easier time sticking to this schedule. For example, get in the habit of getting up early, around sunrise, and take advantage of the natural morning light. You’ll feel sleepy in the evening shortly after the sunset, and you’ll be primed to have a great night’s sleep. Maximizing your time in sunlight and minimizing your time in artificial light can help you sleep better.

Are you up late stressing about your homework? This study shows that prioritizing sleep and getting up earlier can improve sleep quality as well as sleep duration, contributing to your overall success.

Sound Sleep Medical

Are you having a hard time getting enough sleep? Try these tips, then visit Sound Sleep Medical. Our Sleep Specialists will help you get to the heart of your sleeplessness. You may need to learn more about sleep hygiene, lower the temperature in your room, or find a different pillow.

You may also have a sleep disorder or some other concern preventing you from getting the sleep you need. If you’re ready to start sleeping deeply through the night, visit us today! Together we’ll find out what you’re not sleeping, and make sure you have the tools you need to have a great night’s sleep every night.