JHU sleep center launched with $1.9M NIH grant

More 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 to 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 School of Nursing researcher Gayle Page and Michael Smith, of the School of Medicine, is the result of a $1.9 million National Institutes of Health Center of Excellence grant. Its mission is to build on the university's existing strengths, encourage interdisciplinary partnerships, and expand the scope of sleep-measurement research already under way.

Page, who holds the Independence Foundation Chair in Nursing Education, says that the center will attack the problem with research now, provide researchers with the skills to further their work, and foster collaboration with researchers whose specialty offers a natural fit for a sleep study component.

"This is truly an exciting opportunity for multilevel interdisciplinary collaboration between the schools of Nursing and Medicine, which will stimulate new findings about how sleep influences disease processes," says Smith, an associate professor and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program. "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 [and] the participants' real world environment. The center is a unique opportunity to expand the Hopkins sleep research infrastructure to [give] investigators unfamiliar with sleep research the opportunity to include this critical aspect of health [in] their work."

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

The three new projects will be led by Sharon Kozachik, Nancy Hodgson, and Patrick Finan.

Kozachik, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing's Department of Acute and Chronic Care, will look at a potential intervention for cancer patients whose chemotherapy cycles lead to painful side effects and sleeplessness.

Hodgson, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing's Department of Acute and Chronic Care, will study the use of reflexology to ease increased suffering caused by poor sleep in people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, and explore whether clear methods can be established for treating it.

Finan, a postdoctoral fellow in the pain research training program offered by the schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health, will look at "positive affect" as a mechanism to measure the association of sleep deprivation and pain sensitivity. Finan 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, he says, have shown that it "promotes resilience among those suffering from chronic pain."

Ongoing projects broadened by the grant are led by Nancy Glass, Jason Farley, Jerilyn Allen, Miyong Kim, and Sarah Szanton, all of the School of Nursing.

Glass, an associate professor in Community-Public Health and associate director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health, is studying sleep disturbance in female survivors of gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Farley, an assistant professor in Community-Public Health, is studying patients with combined HIV and tuberculosis infections whose adverse drug reactions may include pain and sleep disruption.

Allen, who holds the M. Adelaide Nutting Chair in Acute and Chronic Care, is looking at the effects of weight loss on sleep quality and at the inflammation associated with sleep disturbance, as well as obesity, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Kim, a professor in Community-Public Health and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Health in Vulnerable Populations, is examining the relationship between perceived sleep and hemoglobin A1c, a measure of glucose control, among Korean-Americans with type 2 diabetes.

Szanton, an associate professor in Community-Public Health, is researching best practices for measuring sleep quality in older adults, for whom sleep disturbance is both a predictor and result of functional disability.