Research

The 24 faculty working directly in the Sleep Disorder Center, and larger group of more than 40 faculty in the affiliated Center for Sleep Science, lead some of the most productive research programs in the country. They have contributed important new knowledge on common and consequential conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, circadian rhythm disorders, parasomnias, and restless legs syndrome. Sleep research at U-M spans the continuum from basic, preclinical science through translational and clinical investigation. Research on humans and patients has focused on engineering better sleep, sleep across the age spectrum, and sleep in the context of other medical and particularly neurological conditions.

Collaborations between sleep physicians -- themselves with backgrounds in neurology, otolaryngology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and pulmonary medicine -- and engineers at the University of Michigan, Michigan Technological University, and industry have led to biomedical innovation that promises to change the way sleep disorders are identified, investigated, and managed in the future. For example, these collaborations have led to patented algorithms designed to maximize the clinical utility of signals recorded during laboratory-based sleep studies; new electronic apps that enable a mobile phone to assist with diagnosis and management of sleep disorders; and a prototype for a novel form of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) that will be inexpensive and function without the need for an electrical outlet. Research across the age spectrum, from conception through adulthood, is particularly strong at this institution. Members of the sleep disorder center study the impact of sleep and its disorders on maternal and fetal health; critically ill neonates; cognitive and behavioral problems in young children; challenges faced by inner-city schoolchildren; and success and satisfaction of college students.

Finally, much of the sleep research at the University of Michigan has focused on the nature, assessment, impact, and treatment of sleep disorders that frequently appear to exacerbate problems faced by patients with other neurological disorders. For example, researchers are now looking at contributions of sleep disorders to the fatigue that so many patients with multiple sclerosis say is one of their main complaints. Other investigators have focused on the adverse impact of obstructive sleep apnea after stroke, in the context of Parkinson disease, or on children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. This institution has contributed important information in the past on sleep among patients with epilepsy, and plans are underway to explore the role of sleep disorders in Alzheimer’s disease. The underlying, unifying goal of sleep research at the University of Michigan is to envision and create a future in which we will obtain better health, productivity, and quality of life through better sleep.