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Loughborough University to partner with mental health charity to launch sleep study

A man asleep in bed

A research programme investigating how to improve sleeping problems faced by people with complex mental health issues is being launched.

Colleagues from Loughborough University are working in partnership with St Andrew’s Healthcare on the research, which will involve following the sleep patterns of patients whom the Northampton mental health charity is currently treating.

Is it hoped the research programme – launched on World Sleep Day on Friday 15 March – will identify key factors that might improve the quality of sleep among patients.

The first programme into sleeping problems in patients at the Northampton site was completed last year and found that patients who engaged in physical activity were less likely to suffer from insomnia symptoms.

The next stage will investigate the likely benefit of lifestyle interventions to improve insomnia symptoms in this population facing complex challenges.

Lead researcher Dr Iuliana Hartescu Senior Lecturer in Psychology, School of Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences, said: “Patients in secure mental health settings face a set of complex circumstances which can adversely impact sleep, which include cognitive, behavioural, and environmental factors.

“Identifying those effective interventions that could remove some of these challenges to healthy sleep is a priority for improving the quality of life of the patients. We are looking forward to continuing our successful partnership with St Andrews, for improving key patient outcomes for better sleep and improved wellbeing.”

Researcher Sarrah Fatima, who will be carrying out the research work as part of her PhD programme, added: “In the secure psychiatric inpatient population, there is a high rate of insomnia and poor sleep quality. This can be attributed to the presence of psychiatric symptoms, impact of medication and the ward environment.

“When it comes to medication, prescriptions are very often needed to address a patient’s psychiatric symptoms. However, the downside to this is they can inadvertently impact the person’s sleep quality by increasing insomnia and night-time awakenings.

“Through our research we’ve also discovered that the ward environment can also impact sleep. Wards can sometimes be noisy places at night as there are regular staff observations and noise from fellow patients all of which can impact someone’s rest. What this study is all about is how we mitigate these issues, because we already know that improving sleep quality can reduce psychiatric symptoms and reduce the length of admission.”

Dr Kieran Breen, Head of Research and Development at St Andrew’s Healthcare, emphasised the essential role of quality sleep in the recovery process said: “Quality sleep goes beyond a biological necessity; it is crucial for effective functioning. Our commitment to finding effective strategies for enhancing patients’ sleep experiences is rooted in the profound impact sleep has on emotional well-being, trauma recovery, and cognitive skills maintenance.”