Sleep Research Centre to Launch; Health Reporter HELEN RAE Takes a Look at How a New Sleep Centre in the North East Is a Dream for Insomniacs

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Byline: HELEN RAE

WORLD-RENOWNED sleep experts will gather at a North East university this week to see the official launch of the UK''s first sleep research centre with an entirely natural environment. Dr Jason Ellis, director of Northumbria University''s new Sleep Centre, has invited world-leading professors and insomnia specialists to a week-long conference, which will close with the unveiling of the sleep research facility.

From the inside, the state-of-theart centre looks like a modern apartment, with a kitchen, living room, well-stocked book shelf, and two furnished en suite bedrooms, but just outside the front door are the much more workaday surroundings of the university's School of Life Sciences.

The bedrooms, used by sleep study volunteers, are fitted with closed-circuit television cameras that relay pictures to the control room where Dr Ellis and his team of research students monitor the participants'' sleep.

Bluetooth-enabled sensors worn by the subjects send back wireless telemetry, allowing the real-time monitoring of physiological data.

Dr Ellis, reader in psychology in the School of Life Sciences, developed the centre with advice from fellow insomnia experts, who outlined the shortcomings of existing sleep centres around the globe and gave suggestions for the design.

"It''s a self-contained modern apartment sitting right in the middle of our research facilities without a wire in sight," explained Dr Ellis. This makes it the UK''s first ecologically-valid sleep research centre. All the other centres in the country are really just beds in laboratories.

"Although these basic facilities have contributed significantly to our understanding of sleep, we believe that the more natural, comfortable and ecologically valid the environment, the more relaxed people will be and the more typical a night''s sleep they will have, or at least typical for them."

The conference, organised by Dr Ellis, aims to produce a proposal for an international grant that would enable the delegates'' institutions to link their laboratories together.

Delegates will also discuss the Mental Health Foundation''s Sleep Matters report - released earlier this week, it found that up to a third of the UK population currently suffers from insomnia. …