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Do the Europeans turn ill sitting up so late? An extensive EU-financed sleep research project is coordinated from Finland.


In spring 2005 a large European research and training network was established to investigate the causes and implications of poor sleep from the medical as well as from the social point of view. This EU-financed sleep research project, named “The biomedical and sociological effects of sleep restriction” will last for four years and is coordinated by Dr. Tarja Porkka-Heiskanen (Stenberg) MD, PhD, at the University of Helsinki, Institute of Biomedicine.

The objective of this sleep restriction research is to characterize the physiological and behavioural effects of sleep loss and its social consequences. Sleep loss can be a consequence of sleep disorders, shift work, socio-economic constraints or voluntary restriction of sleep, due to life style. This can result in performance decrements, mood disorders, increased accident rates and considerable decrease in the quality of life.

Sleep loss may also predispose individuals to conditions such as burn-out and cardiovascular diseases.

The EU has granted a 4,4 million Euro funding for this research project from the Marie Curie 6th Framework Program. In addition to Finland there are partners from UK, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.

Many countries are involved in sleep research, but especially in the smaller countries it is very difficult to acquire the funding. This sleep restriction project brings together researchers from five countries, thus creating an efficient network where the special skills of each partner can be utilized.

The network will provide funding for 24 doctoral and post-doctoral researchers. A high level research training program is created in cooperation with the European universities, graduate schools and sleep research societies.

Dr. Tarja Porkka-Heiskanen (Stenberg) says:
“We can choose relevant courses from the available universities, schools and research societies and provide the trainees with a versatile education. The main objective of the training is that the trainees acquire a wide international knowledge as well in basic research as in experimental and clinical research, and also in epidemiology and sociology. Simultaneously the trainees learn to work in an international research environment and can benefit from the large research network in the future.”

The Consortium for the sleep restriction project had last week a meeting and training session at the Robinson College premises in Cambridge, UK, and participating in the scientific meeting of the British Sleep Research Society.

Consortium Members:

1)University of Helsinki, Finland
- coordination of the project
- basic sleep research (extensive experience in using in vivo microdialysis and several other methods of biomedical research)
- imaging

2)University of Surrey, UK
- sociological aspects
- the role of the circadian system in sleep loss mechanisms
- hormonal and metabolic response to sleep deprivation

3)Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
- human sleep research and biochemical assessment of oxidative stress and of cardiovascular risk factors

4)Max Planck Institute, Germany
- immunological aspects of sleep restriction and treatment of sleep disorders

5)University of Zurich, Switzerland
- basic sleep research and signal analysis of the sleep EEG and mathematical modeling

Paivi Lehtinen | alfa
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