Exploring Canadian Student-athletes’ perceptions of sleep and mental health


Student-athletes face challenges in balancing academic, social, and athletic commitments, which can impact their mental health. While the importance of sleep for mental health is widely recognized, how it is perceived within the student-athlete population remains relatively unexplored. This study investigated the perceptions of Canadian post-secondary student-athletes regarding their sleep and mental health. In the fall of 2022, 115 participants (67% male, mean age 21.6 ± 2.5 years) completed an online survey including demographics, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), Sleep Hygiene Index (SHI), Mental Health Continuum Short Form (MHC-SF) and open-ended questions about their sleep experiences. The open-ended questions explored how participants determined the quality of their sleep and challenges to attaining optimal sleep. The PSQI findings indicated that 40% of participants averaged less than 7 hours of sleep/night, and 67% experienced poor sleep quality. Moreover, the SHI indicated that one of the highest-rated items was "I engage in activities before bedtime that may disrupt my sleep," indicating the lack of control over sleep. The MHC-SF scores indicated a broad range (0-24) of mental health states, with a mean score of 12.6 ± 7.3. Utilizing a qualitative description approach, open-ended responses were grouped into categories. The results revealed that 72.2% of student-athletes associated their sleep with their subsequent mental health and for 35.9% of student-athletes, sleep quality emerged as the primary challenge. Effectively addressing the sleep needs of student-athletes while fostering a shared responsibility approach among sport administrators, coaches, and athletes is crucial for their mental health and performance.