Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Research project

Online e-health intervention to improve sleep and the biological clock in university students

Learning about circadian rhythms can help students to improve their sleep and overall well-being

2023 - 2024
Laura Pape

Many students sleep poorly due to a disturbed biological clock or other problems. This significantly increases the risk of psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.

E-health interventions are a great opportunity for university students, as they are often hesitant to reach out to professional mental health services. University students tend to have their own struggles leading to irregular sleep schedules, such as managing late-night-studying, together with increasing social activities, part-time jobs, and other new responsibilities. Learning about and understanding circadian rhythms can help students to improve their sleep and overall well-being.

Therefore, we adapted an established CBTi intervention to the specific needs of university students and added elements of the biological clock (e.g. light exposure, social jetlag, and chronotype assessment).

Research aim

This study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a guided online sleep and biological clock self-help intervention (the i-Sleep & BioClock intervention) in improving sleep, depression symptoms, anxiety symptoms, functioning, academic performance, and quality of life in university students.

Research method

This is a two-arm randomized controlled trial comparing the i-Sleep & BioClock intervention to online psychoeducation. We aim to include 192 university students (Bachelor, Master, and PhD) with moderate to severe insomnia symptoms. We also aim to investigate mediators and moderators of the intervention effect. The study is active from November 2023 until June 2024.

The i-Sleep & BioClock Intervention

The program is a 5-week guided self-help intervention in an online format, based on cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia, in which time students will work on their sleep-wake pattern and their biological clock. Students will read informative text, watch knowledge clips, and do various assignments, such as relaxation exercises and an assessment of their lifestyle habits that influence sleep. Keeping an extensive sleep and light diary is also part of the intervention. Students can follow the program at their own pace, but we advise them to complete one module per week. They have weekly (anonymous) chat contact with an online coach, who monitors the assignments with them and to whom they can ask questions.


If you are interested in participation in this study, have questions or would like to receive further information, you can contact isleep-bioclock@fsw.leidenuniv.nl

Or check out the Caring Universities platform for more information and registration.

This website uses cookies.  More information.