Innovative method of measuring sleep for the better diagnosis of sleep disorders

One or other sleep disorder affects around 10% of the Dutch population, something that can seriously disrupt the quality of their lives. So more and more people are reporting to specialist sleep centers for diagnosis and treatment. Thanks to innovations in the methods employed for sleep research, these patients can receive better treatment. The Kempenaeghe Center for Sleep Medicine and Eindhoven University of Technology are collaborating on innovations and scientific research in the field of treating sleep disorders under the leadership of somnologist Professor Sebastiaan Overeem, who presents his inaugural lecture, ‘A somnologist’s dream’, on Friday 19 January.

Poor sleep quality is known to significantly affect not only one’s physical and psychological health but also one’s social wellbeing. More easily accessible, less laborious and more user-friendly methods of measuring are needed to be able to better diagnose and treat patients. Overeem: “To date we admit people to a sleep clinic where we perform polysomnographic research to measure sleep. In other words, the patient has all kinds of wires stuck on him to measure and observe brain activity, heart rate, breathing, movement, etc. during sleep. However, having loads of wires stuck on you and being monitored by a camera is a far from natural way of sleeping. It also means that we are unable to observe some key aspects or symptoms. Moreover, we tend just to measure one night. This means that our sleep research is just a snapshot of the whole picture as it were.” 

Making research possible in the home situation

“The market is currently saturated with devices and apps that claim to be able to measure sleep,” Overeem continues. “Even for healthy sleep, let alone for sleep disorders, these are still often far too inaccurate. We are therefore working on ways to research sleep in an easier but yet optimum way, not only in the clinic but also in the home situation. Apart from being less unpleasant for the patient, it is easier to measure over a longer period of time. This is important because sleep is influenced by the environment and sleep problems vary from time to time.”

The professorial chair ‘Intelligent systems for sleep disorders’ makes it possible to develop new technologies as well as directly test patients with sleeping disorders. “In this way we hope not only to come up with a better diagnosis but also to more accurately measure the effect of the treatment for which we are now mainly reliant on the subjective assessment by the patient. While this is important, of course, it may not always provide enough insight. More precise and extensive research into the sleep helps us to acquire knowledge about the origins of the more than 80 sleeping disorders we are currently familiar with and about other possible, as yet unknown, sleeping disorder syndromes.” 

On Friday 19 January 2018 prof. dr. Sebastiaan Overeem (40) presents his inaugural lecture ‘A Somnologist’s Dream’. On 1 June 2017 he was appointed professor of ‘Intelligent Systems for Sleep Disorders’ at Eindhoven University of Technology.