Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MemoSleep (Longing for a good night's sleep: A memory-based mechanism to improve sleep and cognitive functioning.)
Reporting period: 2018-03-01 to 2019-08-31
"The basic idea of the ERC project is that we are able to influence our sleep with our thoughts due to the unconscious reactivation of these thoughts during sleep. For example, if we think of an important exam coming up the next day before going to bed, this thought is then re-activated repeatedly during sleep. As it is associated with stress, reactivating “exam” disturbs our ongoing sleep. Importantly, if we would manage to activate the thought ""rest"" or ""sleep well"" before sleep, this should actually improve our sleep quality. In the project, three main questions are traced: Can we experimentally prove that reactivation of thoughts and concepts influence our sleep? Can this reactivation be used in a positive way - for example generating positive thoughts or intentions while being awake to then sleep better? Can we apply these findings to improve disturbed sleep? As high sleep quality is important for our health and well-being, the results of the project are highly relevant for our society."
Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far
We are now at the midterm of the project. So far, we have mainly collected data from healthy participants in our sleep lab in a high number of experimental studies. We could already show that hypnotic suggestions to sleep deeper is able to extend slow-wave sleep (SWS), a sleep stage critical for mental restoration and cognitive functioning. This intervention is only effective in high suggestible participants. In low suggestible participants, we could now show that relaxing music extents SWS and improves subjective sleep quality. Studies in the question of reactivation during sleep are still ongoing.
Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)
We are currently developing relaxation protocols using virtual reality; coupled with methods to reactive these protocols during sleep to improve the restorative function of sleep. In addition, we are validating contactless sleep recording devices and reactivation procedure that can be reliably used in a home setting with minimal disturbance of the sleeper.