Can this New Device Improve Sleep?
Oregon Health & Science University is working on a device that has the potential to improve your quality of sleep and boost deep sleep using electrical pulses. Dr. Miranda Lim, the sleep scientist at OHSU, has been working with a group of researchers to develop this device for enhancing sleep.
OSHU has partnered up with a lab from Eugene that will be manufacturing these devices. Other researchers from different universities such as UNC and UW will also help conduct the research and develop the device.
This project is part of a $4.3 million grant from the Department of Defense who would like to use the device to improve sleep for army soldiers and veterans.
These devices are essentially small electrodes that you can wear on your head while sleeping. They will generate small pulses of electricity that will stimulate the brain during non-REM sleep. The pulses are too small to awaken a person but can help trigger deep sleep. This will be done by activating the glymphatic system, which is a network that clears waste from the central nervous system during sleep. Dr. Lim says deep sleep is associated with the brain’s process of eliminating toxins.
Lim will be working with Dr. Don Tucker, professor emeritus at the University of Oregon, who is developing some of the hardware used in the device. Tucker is designing a wireless headband that allows for electrical stimulation using small electrodes worn on the forehead.
According to the initial research, these devices can help you get 10% more deep sleep during the night. While this is a small improvement, Dr. Lim still believes it is significant one.
The device is primarily targeted for the elderly, especially those with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Lim is “interested to see if improving sleep at an early window can stave off this cascade of events that leads to irreversible disease otherwise”.
In addition, the devices could have other applications such as improving recovery from acute sleep deprivation for night shift workers, first responders, and military personnel.
At the moment, the device is a working prototype that has been tested on 30 healthy people without cognitive or memory issues. Another clinical trial will be also conducted on 90 people at the university sites in Seattle and Chapel Hill. The initial results of the trial are expected to be available next fall.