UA Researchers: A Dream Team for Treating Sleep Disorders

Interdisciplinary teams conducting sleep research at the University of Arizona are working to ensure people get a good night’s sleep and garnering national attention for their findings and expertise on this critical determinant of mental and physical health.

Helping you get a good night’s sleep is the goal of University of Arizona sleep researchers. Working as interdisciplinary teams, they conduct research and lead clinical trials to assess how sleep affects memory, mental health, stress, alertness and decision-making, and how environmental factors affect sleep.

Sleep and wakefulness disorders affect an estimated 15 to 20 percent of U.S. adults, who in turn are more likely to suffer from chronic disorders, including depression, substance abuse, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, stroke and all-cause mortality, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Researchers at the University of Arizona Health Sciences and on the UA main campus recently shared several key findings on sleep during the SLEEP 2016 meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society in Denver. The meeting is the world’s premier forum to present and discuss the latest developments in clinical sleep medicine and sleep and the roughly 24-hour cycle that influences physiology and behavior, known as circadian science.

During the meeting, UA sleep researchers served as experts, provided key presentations and lectures, chaired post-graduate courses and presented new research abstracts and posters on sleep disorders in children and adults.

Garnering national attention for their expertise on sleep, renowned UA sleep scientists and their affiliated laboratory research teams, including undergraduate and graduate students, presented the following research:

UAHS Sleep researchers with the UA College of Medicine – Tucson and the Banner – University Medical Center Tucson Center for Sleep Disorders:

  • Sairam Parthasarathy, MD, professor of medicine with the UA College of Medicine – Tucson Department of Medicine, medical director of the Center for Sleep Disorders at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson and head of the Parthasarathy Lab, was featured as an expert during the meeting’s “Conversation with Experts” session. Dr. Parthasarathy gave the prestigious SLEEP 2016 invited lecture, “Health Services Research in Sleep Medicine,” in which he presented how health services research involving predictive analytics could advance health-care quality and patient-centered care. He presented data on how insomnia could lead to increased risk for mortality and hospitalizations and helped kick-off the meeting as chair of the half-day post-graduate course, “ABC’s of Effective Management of Clinical Trials in Sleep Medicine.” He also presented research on sleep in the intensive care unit that revealed a relationship between dream sleep and pain in hospitalized patients.
  • Daniel Combs, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics and medicine at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson and Banner Children’s at Diamond Children’s Medical Center, gave two presentations on sleep and children. Dr. Combs presented the abstract, “Sleep-Disordered Breathing is Associated with Higher Mortality among Hospitalized Infants with Congenital Heart Disease.” The abstract showed that children with sleep apnea – particularly central sleep apnea – were more likely to die in hospitals, stayed longer, and incurred higher health-care costs. He also presented “Impact of Insomnia in Children in a Longitudinal Seven Year Cohort.” The study found that persistent insomnia in children was specifically associated with a five-fold increased risk of reporting a new medication and a 14-fold increased risk for a new psychiatric medication. This research recently was published in the journal, Scientific Reports (www.nature.com/articles/srep27921?WT.feed_name=subjects_medical-research).
  • Sejal Jain, MD, associate professor of neurology at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, chaired the clinical practice session on the interaction between sleep and pain, titled “Sleep: The Balm for Hurt Minds,” and gave a talk, titled “Pain Medications and Effects on Sleep,” which involved a comprehensive overview of the available medications for improving sleep in patients with pain syndromes.
  • Tam Le, MD, a fellow in sleep medicine with the Parthasarathy Lab, gave a presentation and presented the poster “Alzheimer's Disease and Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Meta-Analysis.” This data suggested there is more than a four-fold increased risk for sleep apnea in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

UAHS Sleep researchers with the UA College of Medicine – Tucson Department of Psychiatry:

  • William D. “Scott” Killgore, PhD, UA professor of psychiatry, medical imaging and psychology, and director of the Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN) Lab, presented research that identifies the brain correlates of trait-like vulnerability/resistance to sleep deprivation, “Default Mode Activation Predicts Vulnerability to Sleep Deprivation in the Domains of Mood, Sleepiness and Vigilance.” Dr. Killgore’s research shows that subjective vulnerability to sleep loss can be predicted by the activation of the brain’s default mode network, days before sleep deprivation occurs. He also presented work on the efficacy of light therapy for improving balance in individuals with traumatic brain injury. Dr. Killgore’s lab contributed 14 abstracts to the SLEEP 2016 meeting.
  • Michael A. Grandner, PhD, MTR, assistant professor and director of the Sleep and Health Research Program and the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic, chaired the half-day postgraduate course on “Actigraphy and Fitness/Sleep Trackers in Adults and Children: Fundamentals and Applications” and provided a workshop for trainees on how to write scientific manuscripts. He presented new research looking at 24-hour patterns of positive and negative mood in a large sample of users of Lumosity, the web-based brain game and brain training application, as well as new data documenting complex relationships among sleep and social, environmental and health variables in the U.S. population. Dr. Grandner also presented several abstracts from the recently completed Sleep and Healthy Activity, Diet, Environment, and Socialization (SHADES) study, including data showing that childhood trauma may increase risk for insomnia in adulthood. These abstracts also explored new connections between sleep and mental health and revealed new ways of thinking about the relationship between sleep and alcohol, smoking and caffeine. Dr. Grandner’s lab contributed 18 abstracts to the SLEEP 2016 meeting.
  • Anna Alkozei, PhD, postdoctoral research associate and a member of the SCAN Lab, presented research showing how exposure to blue light has a lasting effect on brain function and reaction times, producing alertness and quick decision-making. Dr. Alkozei’s presentation was titled, “Exposure to Blue Wavelength Light is Associated with Increased Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex Responses and Increases in Response Times During a Working Memory Task.” Her work recently was published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
  • Sarah Markowski, program coordinator, UA College of Medicine – Tucson Department of Psychiatry, and a member of the SCAN Lab, presented two posters about chronotype, a person’s internal body clock that influences the cycle of sleep, and activity in a 24-hour period: “Chronotype and Risk-Taking Propensity” and “Chronotype and Emotional Intelligence.” Markowski was interviewed for a recent article about the research for the website Van Winkle’s.
  • John Vanuk, graduate research associate UA Department of Psychiatry and a clinical graduate student in the UA Department of Psychology, and member of the SCAN Lab presented two posters: “The Effects of Light Exposure on Heart Rate Variability Predict Sleepiness and Vigilance” and “Changes in Heart Rate Variability Due to Light Exposure Predict Frontoparietal Connectivity.”

UAHS Sleep researchers with the UA College of Medicine – Tucson Department of Physiology:

  • E. Fiona Bailey PhD, associate professor of physiology, presented “Inspiratory Muscle Training Improves Sleep and Mitigates Cardiovascular Dysfunction in Obstructive Sleep Apnea.” Dr. Bailey reported on the results of an American Heart Association-funded study that shows respiratory training performed 5 minutes each day lowers blood pressure and plasma catecholamines, and neurotransmitters such as epinephrine and dopamine, in adults with ongoing nighttime apnea and hypoxemia.

UAHS Sleep researchers with the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, Department of Health Promotion Sciences:

  • Patricia Haynes, PhD, UA associate professor of public health, psychology and psychiatry, and principal investigator of the UA ADAPT Study (Assessing Daily Activity Patterns Through Occupational Transitions), presented research showing that the gold-standard cognitive behavioral therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans does not lead to improvements in sleep and that sleep problems remain above clinical cutoff levels in veterans who respond to PTSD therapy. These findings suggest that Veteran Affairs PTSD clinics should separately evaluate and treat insomnia. In addition, Dr. Haynes presented a poster demonstrating that ambient light exposure is associated with positive emotions in unlicensed mental health-care providers.
  • Devan Gengler, research technician and member of Dr. Haynes’ research group, presented the poster, “An Examination of Relationship Quality and Sleep in Veterans with PTSD and Their Bed Partners.”
  • Monica Kelly, MA, UA doctoral student in clinical psychology and member of Dr. Haynes’ research group, presented the poster, “Negative Mood Regulation Expectancies and Trauma Symptoms Following a Randomized Controlled Trial of Cognitive Behavioral Social Rhythm Group Therapy for Male Veterans with PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder, and Sleep Problems.”
  • Darlynn Rojo-Wissar, UA graduate student in family and child health and member of Dr. Haynes’ research group, presented the poster, “Sleep Quality Partially Mediates the Relationship Between ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and Perceived Health in College Freshmen.”

Sleep researchers with the UA College of Science, School of Mind, Brain and Behavior, Department of Psychology:

  • Spencer Dawson, MA, doctoral candidate in the UA Department of Psychology, presented during the “Pathophysiology of Insomnia” general session, “Memory, Arousal, And Perception of Sleep.” He is with the Psychophysiology Laboratory of John J.B. Allen, PhD, UA distinguished professor of psychology.
  • Autri Hafezi, who received a bachelor of science degree in neuroscience and cognitive science from the UA College of Science, School of Mind, Brain and Behavior in May, presented the poster, “Sleep Reactivity Predicts Parasympathetic Control During Return To Sleep After Midnight Awakening.” Hafezi is with the Psychophysiology Laboratory.
  • Michael Goldstein, doctoral student in clinical psychology with the UA Department of Psychology, presented the abstract, “The Effects of Preceding Sleep on Physiological Responses to a Laboratory Stress Induction.” Goldstein is with the Psychophysiology Laboratory.
  • Ji-Soo Kim, doctoral student in the Cognition and Neural Systems Program of the UA Department of Psychology, presented the poster, “The Role of Gender and Nap status in Executive Functioning of Korean Children.” Kim’s mentor is Rebecca Gomez, PhD, associate professor of psychology.

For more information on UAHS clinical research studies, please visit: http://studies.medicine.arizona.edu

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: http://uahs.arizona.edu