The University of Washington (UW) School of Nursing is launching a Center for Innovation in Sleep Self-Management, aimed at developing interventions to help adults and children with chronic illnesses sleep better and improve their health.

The center is funded with a $2.4 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Poor sleep has been associated with increased risk for a number of negative health outcomes, including metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, human-error accidents, and even early mortality.

“Sleep deficiency is linked to a higher risk of chronic health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity—and for individuals who already have these conditions, poor sleep can make managing their condition much more difficult,” says Teresa Ward, RN, PhD, a UW associate professor of nursing and co-director of the center, in a release. “This new center is uniquely suited to harness technology and create resources that individuals can use to improve their own sleep, health, and quality of life.”

“Developing self-management sleep interventions represents a new era in the sleep field,” Ward says. “To date, there are very few studies in sleep literature on the specific use of self-management skills.”

The center will employ and explore technologies such as home sensors that track noise, light, and temperature; mobile applications that measure diet, exercise, and caffeine intake; and wristbands that monitor sleep-wake activity and light levels. These tools enable patients to monitor sleep behavior, set goals and receive feedback.

Researchers at the center also will collect and share data so that scientists and patients nationwide may benefit.

“Many adults and children with chronic conditions experience sleep deficiency, but sleep is not routinely assessed in primary care settings,” Ward says. “Our research will help develop interventions that will, hopefully, allow individuals with chronic conditions to not only improve their sleep but also more effectively manage their chronic conditions.”

Elizabeth Giblin, EdD, FAAN, established the first nursing school-based sleep laboratory in the late 1970s. Only a few US nursing schools maintain such labs. UW nursing faculty and staff have collaborated with interdisciplinary colleagues to study sleep in chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia with Joan Shaver, Carol Landis, and Martha Lentz; irritable bowel syndrome with Margaret Heitkemper and Monica Jarrett; menopause with Nancy Woods and Susan McCurry; HIV with Diana Taibi Buchanan; children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis with Teresa Ward and Carol Landis; and asthma with Gail Kieckhefer, Martha Lentz and Carol Landis.

“We are extremely excited to build on our school’s rich legacy of sleep research and carry on the success of pioneering nurse scientists,” says Margaret Heitkemper, PhD, RN, FAAN, center co-director and chair of the UW School of Nursing Department of Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems. “Our school’s solid infrastructure and interdisciplinary environment provide an ideal foundation for sleep research focused on self-management strategies.”

“Adequate sleep is essential to optimal physical and social-emotional growth and development in children and adolescents and individuals of all ages,” Heitkemper says.

The grant will fund two new junior researchers, three pilot projects, and a mentoring core for new researchers. UW assistant professors Oleg Zaslavsky, PhD, and Jennifer Sonney, PhD, ARNP, PPCNP-BC, will lead initial pilot projects.

Additional center contributors include internal scientific advisory board members Joie Whitney, Tonya Palermo, Maida Chen, Vishesh Kapur, Julie Kientz, and Susan McCurry; pilot project core members Carol Landis and Hilaire Thompson; informatics and patient-centered technologies core member George Demiris; statistician Ken Pike, project manager Marni Levy; institutional fiscal liaison Jennifer Thompson; and bioengineer Robert Burr.