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18th March 2022 Latest News Sleep

World Sleep Day - quality sleep, sound mind, happy world

Woman smiling at camera standing in front of staircase

Today is World Sleep Day. The theme for this year is quality sleep, sound mind, happy world.

Did you know that four in 10 Australians get inadequate sleep, having a significant impact on the health of our community?

Poor quality sleep or a disorder such as obstructive sleep apnoea can lead to serious and long-term health problems including heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

This World Sleep Day, we spoke with Dr Tiffany Gill, Senior Research Fellow at The University of Adelaide who’s researching if light treatment improves sleep and pain, proudly funded by The Hospital Research Foundation Group.

“Musculoskeletal pain in the population is common and we know that disturbed sleep is a common complaint among those with this pain.

Sleep disturbances negatively affect wellbeing, productivity and safety (e.g. driving) and also impact on pain levels.
Often people take medications to get to sleep. However, some evidence suggests that light treatment may improve sleep and reduce pain sensitivity.

Bright Light Therapy (BLT) is one approach that shows promising effectiveness for sleep onset insomnia and other sleep disturbances caused by misalignments of the body clock, called circadian rhythm.

The Re-timersTM Pty Ltd, which have been developed by members of our team, are a portable glasses-like device which has two light emitting diodes (LED’s) built into the bottom of each frame. The diodes administer light directly into the visual field in order to phase shift circadian rhythm and improve sleep.

Our aims by the end of this research grant are:

  • To determine if the use of light therapy for in the morning improves sleep quality
  • To determine if improved sleep quality has an impact on pain sensitivity and pain intensity among those with fibromyalgia (muscle tenderness) or low back pain
  • To determine if reductions in pain are associated with improvement in activity levels among those with fibromyalgia or low back pain as measured at follow up with accelerometry (a wrist worn device that can be worn 24 hours a day and measures activity).

The initial focus of our study is on those with fibromyalgia and back pain. Participants’ sleep will initially be assessed using an under-mattress sleep mat (which is commercially available and you can download the results) and members of our team will then analyse the results.

If the results show that they have altered circadian rhythm, participants will be given a set of glasses to wear, and we will continue to use the sleep mats and assess whether their sleep (and pain) will improve. We have chosen fibromyalgia as they are difficult to treat with medication and the pain is chronic and widespread, and back pain was chosen because it is common.

This pilot study is being conducted through the Rheumatology clinic at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The idea is that if this works, we can expand it further and do a clinical trial and also include people with other musculoskeletal problems (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, generalised pain in joints etc.)”

Dr Gill and her team will be recruiting for this project soon. Look out for an update on how to be involved in this study in the near future!