University at Buffalo School of Nursing researchers have received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop interventions to help improve sleep among people with multiple sclerosis (MS).
The grant, known as a K12 grant, is a career development award given by the NIH to talented new researchers; it provides mentored training to improve research skills and experience.
The two-year K12 grant of approximately $130,000 was awarded to associate professor Rebecca Lorenz, PhD, whose previous research was focused on studying sleep patterns in patients with neurological diseases, including MS.
Patients with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and MS — characterized by destruction of nerve cells in the brain or peripheral nervous system — often experience abnormalities in their sleep-wake cycles, known as circadian rhythms. These are characterized by physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle.
Previous studies have shown that many patients with MS have sleeping problems and that the quality of their sleep is poor. This can have significant impact on their daily life, as it can lead to fatigue and sleepiness during the day.
There are treatments available to target this problem and help improve sleeping patterns. Unfortunately, for many patients these treatments are not effective and there is a significant need to develop new and improved interventions to resolve the problem.
Using the grant, Lorenz plans to revise SleepWell!, which is a new treatment that combines mindfulness practices and non-light cues in order to retune the circadian rhythm of older people with or without neurodegenerative disorders.
“Sleep disruptions are widespread among older adults,” Lorenz said in a press release. “The high prevalence of disrupted sleep, together with the lack of personalized sleep health interventions, indicates a pressing need to develop new or improve existing therapies for affected adults where they live, work and socialize.”
Lorenz is planning to lead a study in which she and her team will investigate factors that are associated with increased risk of poor sleep, as well as assess the effectiveness of SleepWell! in older adults with multiple sclerosis.