Improving university students’ mental health using multi-component and single-component sleep interventions: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Laura Chandler*, Chloe Patel, Lia Lovecka, Maria Gardani, Lukasz Walasek, Jason Ellis, Caroline Meyer, Samantha Johnson, Nicole K.Y. Tang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)


University is a time of significant transitions during a young adult's life, with delayed and shortened sleep and poor mental health a common occurrence. This systematic review and meta-analysis examined the effect of both multi-component and single-component sleep interventions on improving university students' sleep and mental health. Five databases (MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Embase, CINAHL and Cochrane Library) were searched for relevant literature published until April 2022. Treatment studies including university students aged 18–24 years, participating in a sleep intervention (multi-component, e.g., CBT-I, or single-component, e.g., sleep hygiene) were eligible. Comparator groups were either active, i.e., alternative intervention, or passive, i.e., waitlist control or treatment-as-usual, with study outcomes to include measures of sleep and mental health. Of 3435 references screened, 11 studies involving 5267 participants, with and without insomnia symptoms, were included for a narrative synthesis on intervention designs and methodology. Six studies eligible for meta-analyses showed a moderate effect of sleep interventions in reducing sleep disturbance (SMD = −0.548 [CI: −0.837, −0.258]) at post-treatment, alongside a small effect in improving anxiety (SMD = −0.226 [CI: −0.421, −0.031]) and depression (SMD = −0.295 [CI: −0.513, −0.077]). Meta-regression examining study and intervention characteristics identified subpopulation (experiencing insomnia or not) as a significant moderator for effects on sleep (p = 0.0003) and depression (p = 0.0063), with larger effects in studies with participants experiencing insomnia. Comparison group type (active or passive) was also a significant moderator (p = 0.0474), with larger effects on sleep in studies using passive comparison groups. Study type, delivery format, and intervention duration were not identified as significant moderators. At follow-ups, small but significant effects were sustained for anxiety and depression. Protecting and promoting sleep amongst university students may help safeguard and advance mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-363
Number of pages10
JournalSleep Medicine
Early online date14 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


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