UEA launches new project for World Sleep Day

Published by  News archive

On 18th Mar 2022

A middle-aged woman sleeps with one arm over her face.
Getty images.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia are launching a new project to help people get a better night’s rest.


They are looking for people over 55 with sleep problems to take part in a new trial that aims to improve their quality of sleep.

Participants will be given a wearable headband to wear at night which will measure their brain activity. They’ll also take part in an enhanced sleep education programme and be given a daily food supplement to see whether improving their gut health could help.

Sleep expert Dr Alpar Lazar, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “We’re going to be studying people aged over 55 because we know that poor sleep in older people is linked with cognitive decline and increased risk of dementia.

“There are currently an estimated 50 million people in the world living with dementia and this is expected to triple by 2035, because people are living for longer.

“Both sleep quality and gut health have been implicated as potential contributors to cognitive decline. We want to find out more about whether non-pharmacological interventions to improve sleep and gut health can help reduce cognitive decline in older people.”

Participants will wear a special headband when they go to sleep, which will use EEG (electroencephalogram) technology to detect any abnormalities in their brain waves, or in the electrical activity of their brain.

They’ll also be given saffron supplements because this spice has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve gut health.

The experiment will last for five weeks, and participants will be asked to wear the headset for the first week and fifth week - so that the researchers can detect any changes to their sleep patterns.

Dr Lazar said: “Normally this kind of research takes place in a specialist sleep lab but thanks to new technology pioneered at UEA, people taking part will be able to do so from the comfort of their own homes.

“As well as helping with our research, we hope that those taking part will learn strategies to improve their sleep,” he added.

The team are looking for healthy adults aged 55 and over, who experience impaired sleep quality or insufficient sleep. Participants must have good conversational English and have the capacity to consent to taking part in the study.

The study is sponsored by UEA and funded by UKRI Zinc Healthy Ageing Catalyst Award. The research is run in collaboration with Dr David Vauzour, an expert in molecular nutrition from the Norwich Medical School.

For more information about UEA’s sleep research, visit https://www.uea.ac.uk/groups-and-centres/sleep-and-brain-research-unit

For more information about this trial, and to register an interest in taking part, email sleep.brain@uea.ac.uk

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