A systematic review on the effectiveness of virtual sleep intervention delivery to improve sleep and mental health outcomes in the post-secondary student population.
Students pursuing post-secondary education (e.g., college/university) are a population group at risk for both significant sleep problems and poor mental health outcomes such as depression and anxiety. Interventions such as sleep hygiene education and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are commonly used treatment options for sleep problems and have been effective in improving sleep and mental health in the university student population. Digitally-delivered CBT has also shown to be effective in improving sleep in youth, however it has not been evaluated in the post-secondary population. As a result of the COVID‑19 pandemic, many industries, including mental health services, were forced to close to comply with physical distancing measures. In an effort to address the growing sleep challenges faced by students, some institutions have moved to providing care through a virtual platform. However, the effectiveness of delivering sleep interventions virtually to the post-secondary population is unknown. Given this paucity of information – especially in a climate that may be forced to embrace virtual care options for service delivery in perpetuity as we slowly enter a ‘new normal’, we propose a systematic review of the literature to synthesize the best available evidence on the effectiveness of non-pharmacological sleep interventions delivered through a technology-based platform. Our review will provide knowledge users with a synthesis of the best available evidence to inform decision making when developing interventions to be delivered through virtual platforms. Moreover, as the COVID‑19 situation develops, this synthesis allows us to be proactive in adapting a new way to deliver mental health services (e.g., virtual care).