College Students and Sleep: Everything You Need to Know

College Students and Sleep:: Everything You Need to Know

Life as an international student in Canada seems glamorous and fun. And it is! You get to meet new people, try out different cuisines, explore a new country, get a world-class education, get a better quality of life, etc. But there are some things that international students have to deal with that are not talked about, one of them being lack of sleep. Lack of sleep affects the overall mental and physical health of an individual. Sleeping well ensures your overall well-being.

If you are an international student with this problem, you might be wondering how to cope with it. And if you are planning to study in Canada, you should be prepared to deal with a lack of sleep. Don’t worry! We’ve got your back. We have listed a few strategies or things you can do to get better sleep. 

But delving into that let us look at some of the things that affect an international student’s sleep. 

College Students and Sleep- Things Affecting Sleep

Time Zone

When international students arrive in Canada, it takes time for them to adjust to the time zone differences. The difference in time zone has a negative impact on their sleep.

 The change in the circadian rhythm of your body can disrupt your sleep, and your body’s internal clock struggles to adjust to the new time zone. Some take days, and some take several months to get used to it



Canada is very cold, and it is difficult for international students to adjust to the harsh weather of Canada, especially if they come from a warm country. The temperature can go as low as -15 degrees celsius in some parts of the country.

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The cold climate of Canada results in seasonal depression in many international students. It leads to a lack of energy, lack of motivation, general sadness, etc. They also find it hard to sleep, though most of them spend more time in bed. 


International students have to carry a lot of responsibilities when they arrive in Canada. Having nutritious meals is the last thing on their mind most of the time. Moreover, the soaring tuition costs, living expenses, etc., are forcing most of them to depend on food banks.

 One’s diet has a huge impact on one’s sleep. Eating nutritious food helps one have a better quality of sleep. As most international students don’t get enough nutritious food, their sleep gets affected.

Work-Life Balance

Most international students work part-time while studying to cover their tuition costs and living expenses. This is completely new for most of them. So they find it hard to adjust and maintain and work-life balance. Apart from working and studying, they also have to do household chores such as cooking, cleaning, etc. The lack of support and the new responsibilities makes it hard for them to maintain a work-life balance. This, in turn, leads to a lack of sleep. 


A huge chunk of international students suffers from anxiety caused due to financial stress, academic stress, culture shock and homesickness, and language barriers. Anxiety causes restlessness, increased heart rate, difficulty falling asleep, etc. The lack of sleep, in turn,  increases anxiety.

What Can be Done?

Yoga and Meditation


Yoga and Meditation have a positive effect on one’s overall health and well-being. People who practice yoga and meditation usually have a better quality of sleep. Practicing yoga and meditation also results in reduced stress and anxiety, which are leading causes of sleeplessness. 

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Try practicing yoga every day or a few times per week to improve your sleep. You can also try some yoga poses, such as viparita karani, savasana, etc., before bedtime to help you sleep.


Food insecurity is a huge problem among international students, and as mentioned earlier, many international students are dependent on food banks. Therefore, having nutritious food every day is not possible. But try to have nutritious food such as vegetables, fruits, etc., as often as you can as a healthy diet improves sleep.

Relaxation Music

Music is a highly therapeutic tool that can be used to get improved sleep. Listening to soothing and relaxing music leads to slow breathing, lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduction in muscle tension, etc. It triggers the release of serotonin and oxytocin, which are sleep-friendly hormones and reduces the production of hormones like cortisol that stifles sleep. 

Reduce Your Screen Time

Yes, nighttime is when we usually have time to ourselves and scrolling through our social media while lying on our bed is something that we all do in our spare time. That is all well and good but is it actually a harmless activity? Scrolling through our phones stimulates our brain and delays sleep. So we end up staying awake for long periods of time. Moreover, the blue light emitted by the smartphone mimics daylight which tricks our body’s internal clock. Therefore, you should reduce your screen time before bed. Stop actively using your phone at least one hour before bedtime.

Limit Caffeine


Caffeine is a stimulant that keeps you awake. It can also throw your body’s internal clock off track. A study found that consuming caffeine six hours before bedtime disrupts sleep. Therefore, limit your caffeine intake or quit it altogether.

Breathing Exercises

Certain breathing exercises are very helpful in getting a night of quality sleep. Concentrating on your breathing reduces anxiety and stress, calms your mind and helps produce more melatonin which induces sleep. 

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Improve Your Sleep Environment

Small changes to your bedroom can make a huge difference in the quality of your sleep. Keep your room cool and clean. Make your bed more comfortable by investing in a good mattress, pillows, and bed covers. 


Why do international students in Canada get poor sleep?

There are a number of reasons why international students in Canada get poor sleep quality. Some of them include the body’s inability to adjust to the time zone difference, anxiety, lack of nutritious food, lack of work-life balance, etc. Lack of sleep leads to a lack of focus and stress. Students should get enough rest to be able to concentrate on their studies. If students fail to get quality sleep, their academic life is affected. Lack of sleep also negatively affects one’s health. So international students should try to eat healthily, reduce their screen time at night, practice yoga and meditation or do some kind of exercise, and limit caffeine intake to help get more sleep and to improve the quality of their sleep.

How many hours of sleep should I get?

Students need enough sleep and rest to be able to focus on their academics. Ideally, a student should get at least 7 hours of sleep. When someone’s sleep cycle is disturbed, their health and mood are also affected. So it is very important to get quality sleep. If your sleep cycle is affected and you find yourself tossing in your bed every night and running around tired with low energy during the day, you should take steps that will help you sleep well. This includes exercising, staying away from your mobile phone at night, reducing your caffeine intake, etc.

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