nursing schoolMore than one-quarter of the adult population of the U.S. suffers from sleep disturbances known to contribute to life-threatening illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dementia as well as depression, chronic pain, and fatigue.

Often such sleeplessness is a consequence of obesity, lifestyle, and work.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep-Related Symptom Science is being established to help define and break these cycles of sleeplessness and suffering.

The Center, the brainchild of Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON) researcher Gayle Page, DNSc, RN, FAAN, and Michael Smith, PhD, of the Hopkins School of Medicine, is the result of a $1.9 million National Institutes of Health “Center of Excellence” Grant. Its mission is to build upon the University’s existing strengths, encourage interdisciplinary partnerships, and expand the scope of sleep-measurement research already underway. (JHUSON is No. 1 in NIH funding among nursing schools in fiscal year 2012.)

“It was the twinkle in both our eyes,” says Page of the Center, which will attack the problem with research now, provide researchers with the skills to further their work, and also foster collaboration today and down the road with researchers whose specialty offers a natural fit for a sleep study component.

“This is truly an exciting opportunity for multi-level interdisciplinary collaboration between the Schools of Nursing and Medicine, which will stimulate new findings about how sleep influences disease processes,” says Smith. “A unique feature of the center is the combination of basic science animal models of sleep disruption along with advanced clinical monitoring of sleep in both the traditional inpatient sleep laboratory setting as well the participants’ real world environment.  The center is a unique opportunity to expand the Hopkins Sleep Research infrastructure to permit investigators unfamiliar with sleep research the opportunity to include this critical aspect of health into their work.”

In all, eight Hopkins research projects will be launched or enhanced through the NIH grant, which also will build on an alliance with the University of Washington Center for Research on Management of Sleep Disturbances.

The three new projects include:

  • Sharon Kozachik, PhD, RN, will look at a potential intervention for cancer patients whose chemotherapy cycles lead to painful side effects and sleeplessness.
  • Nancy Hodgson, PhD, RN, will study the use of reflexology to ease increased suffering caused by poor sleep in people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and whether clear methods can be established for treating it.
  • Patrick Finan, PhD, will look at “positive affect” as a mechanism to measure the association of sleep deprivation and pain sensitivity. He defines positive affect as “evaluative judgment about the pleasantness of a mood or emotion that promotes motivation to approach and engage with naturally rewarding stimuli.” Studies have shown that it “promotes resilience among those suffering from chronic pain.”

Ongoing projects broadened by the grant include:

  • Nancy Glass, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN: Sleep disturbance in female survivors of gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Jason Farley, PhD, MPH, CRNP: Patients with combined HIV and tuberculosis infections whose adverse drug reactions may include pain and sleep disruption.
  • Jerilyn Allen, ScD, RN, FAAN: The effects of weight loss on sleep quality and the inflammation associated with sleep disturbance as well as obesity, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes.
  • Miyong Kim, PhD, RN, FAAN: The relationship between perceived sleep and hemoglobin A1c, a measure of glucose control, among Korean-Americans with type 2 diabetes.
  • Sarah Szanton, PhD, CRNP: Best practices for measuring sleep quality in older adults, for whom sleep disturbance is both a predictor and a result of functional disability.