Gail R. Marsh
Associate Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
My current research interests are largely centered around sleep and disorders of sleep. We just completed a six year long project on sleep in the middle-aged (40-60 years of age) and elderly (60+ years of age), measured both at home and in the lab. We gathered data on an equal number of men and women, both with equal representation of normal sleepers and persons complaining of insomnia. They were studied for three days in the lab as well as an equal number of days at home. A standard sleepiness test was given to reveal the level of sleepiness during the day.
Studies comparing drug and behavioral treatment of middle-aged and elderly insomniacs, and examining how long behavioral treatment needs to be continued to be effective are currently being carried out. All of the treatments show a significant effect in providing better sleep. The behavioral treatments have a better long-term treatment effect but appear to take longer to become effective.
Basic aspects of sleep are part of the ongoing studies in the lab. Currently several different ways of measuring nonrapid eye movement sleep--slow wave sleep in particular--are being tested in an attempt to come to terms with the currently inadequate means of assessing the presence and intensity of this aspect of sleep. Coming to terms with this difficulty could help resolve some of the controversies present in present day sleep research, especially in regard to the difficulties of objectively measuring how sleep changes with age.
Treatments to improve sleep, especially in the elderly are currently being studied. Several treatment approaches are being attempted, with vibration stimulation being the therapy most studied to date.
Periodic leg movements of sleep (PLM) is a poorly understood disorder of sleep that may have several etiologies. It becomes increasingly prevalent with age; about 40% of persons over 70 years of age are found to have their sleep disturbed to a significant extent by this disorder. We are presently exploring this disorder.
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