The Week in Sleep News: May 5, 2023

An art installation hope to shed light on sleep inequalities between races and economic classes.

Two people sitting up, reading a newspaper in bed. Text reads: Sleep News, Week of May 5, 2023.

This week in sleep news:

Sleep problems linked to mental health, behavior in late childhood, early adolescence

A new study published in JAMA shows that sleep issues in children were associated with behavioral and emotional problems in late childhood and early adolescence. To assess sleep, the caregiver of each participant completed the Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children (SDSC), factoring in their child’s symptoms over the past six months. SDSC scores were then used to create four sleep profiles: low disturbance, sleep onset/maintenance problems, mixed disturbance, and high disturbance. All sleep profiles except low disturbance were associated with greater risks of mental health and behavioral problems. Scientists hope these findings highlight the importance of identifying sleep issues in children.

Living near an airport could mess with your sleep

A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that exposure to airplane sounds — even at moderate levels — increased the odds of short sleep duration. The study found that people exposed to airplane noise levels as low as 45 decibels (dB) had a 23% greater chance of experiencing shorter sleep duration. For comparison, a whisper is 30 dB, and a normal household conversation is 50 dB. Besides finding that the likelihood of short sleep increased as airplane noise exposure rose, the study found that participants living on the West Coast, those living near a significant cargo airport or a large body of water, and those who reported no hearing loss were more likely to experience shorter sleep. While the study linked airport noise and sleep duration, it found no tie between aircraft noise and the quality of sleep.

New project to measure Alzheimer's and Parkinson's via the ear during sleep

Researchers in Denmark are developing a wearable electroencephalography (EEG) device that resembles in-ear headphones to measure brain activity levels during sleep. The team working on this project will test it on patients both with and without Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diagnoses, to see if the device can differentiate brain activity, as a way to ultimately screen patients for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Besides measuring brain waves, this device also allows for the measurement of other sleep-related variables. The device includes an oximeter to measure blood oxygen levels, a thermometer for body temperature, and a microphone to evaluate heart and respiratory rates.

In more thought-provoking sleep news…

The Museum of Modern Art in New York unveiled a multimedia installation inviting guests to kick back and relax. The installation, named “Black Power Naps,” is intended to shed a light on sleep equity, posing the question: “How can we dream when we don’t sleep?” The interactive exhibit features circular beds with tie-dyed comforters, plush rugs that read “Rest in power,” and a meditative soundtrack in the background urging museumgoers to ponder the inequities in sleep — particularly for those who are undocumented, disabled, or living at lower income levels — while laying down.

The artists Navild Acosta and Fannie Sosa were inspired by 2015 research that found that Black Americans were five times as likely as white Americans to get too little sleep (less than 6 hours of sleep per night). The installation will be on display through May 14, 2023, with MoMA making a number of free tickets available every day.