Time Difference presents Challenges with Online learning: How to sleep on Demand

International students are joining online lessons at all times of day and night. But how can they make sure they get enough sleep to stay focused?

Sleep deprivation has become an increasing global problem among the millions of students who are attempting to keep up with their online studies from the differing time zones of their home countries while schools, colleges and universities remain closed due to COVID-19.

Learning schedules have forced many students to work through the night, with BBC News recently publishing an example of a student from Monash University in Melbourne, who is currently working to a timetable of lectures at 1.30am, 3am, 6am and 7am from his home in London, while still committing to the daytime responsibilities that come with rejoining his family.

It is of course vital for students to retain focus despite the changes to their body clock and the very real mental and physical effects that come with a disrupted sleep pattern. Lifecare looks at the ways we can help our bodies adjust to ‘sleeping on demand’ to fit in with a working schedule that has strayed into the night.

Make quiet time a family focus

During the day there are more likely to be noises from both inside and outside the home that can easily disrupt sleep. Family and friends can help a day-sleeping student stay undisturbed by leaving the house, using headphones and scheduling any noisemaking activity around their much-needed naps.

Create the perfect sleep environment

It is near impossible to enter a deep, effective sleep on an old, uncomfortable bed. Make sure the student has a supportive mattress and comfortable sleep space. The Sleep Council UK suggests we switch off and ideally remove all distracting digital devices, and consider using a white noise machine, fan and/or ear plugs to block sounds and enhance sleep. The scents of lavender and geranium are naturally calming, so a few drops of these essential oils on a pillow or sheet will help, too.

Cool + Dark = Sleep

The medical experts at Sleep.org give the optimum temperature for sleep as between a cool 15ºC and 19ºC, based on the science that a lower body temperature is proven to initiate sleep. Light also has an alerting effect, which influences the body’s circadian rhythm, or internal ‘clock’. Students should therefore limit their exposure to daylight as they attempt to wind down, by wearing sunglasses, using blackout shades and curtains in their bedroom or sleep space, and wearing an eye mask when they do settle down to sleep.

Manage caffeine & nicotine consumption

Many students will be drinking coffee to give them a ‘boost’ to get through night studies. But caffeine stays in the body for several hours, and so needs to be avoided in the hours before they wish to fall asleep, so that the body has time to unwind. Similar to caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant which can substantially reduce sleep quality. The National Sleep Foundation also confirms that smoking close to bedtime can lead to insomnia and restless sleep.

A hot drink is a great way to relax the body, however, so students should swap coffee and cigarettes for to warm milk and herbal teas such as chamomile and peppermint towards the end of their learning session.

For more advice on healthy sleep, connect with Lifecare’s Cura Corporate team who can help clients connect with sleep experts:  Click here


BBC news, The Sleep Council UK, Sleep.org, The National Sleep Foundation