Student team conducts research on sleep hygiene

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Researching sleep hygiene with a team of students: TUM student Luisa Metten from
Researching sleep hygiene with a team of students: TUM student Luisa Metten from the Somnoactive team.
Luisa Metten is actually studying aerospace at TUM. Alongside her studies, she is working intensively on another topic: sleep hygiene. With her "Somnoactive" project at TUM: Junge Akademie, she is researching how sleep deprivation can be combated and how sleep in general can be improved.

Sleep deficiency is an unusual research topic for a student. How did it come about?

Students in particular can relate to the motto: "sleep matters". I also believe that a lot of people struggle with sleep deficiency at a university like TUM. For the part of our study that we conducted here in Munich, we were able to enrol almost twice as many test subjects as we would have expected.

And how about you? Do you experience sleep deficiency, too?

Yes, fairly often. During the semester it gets worse and worse. I stay up later because I have so much to do. The next day I have to get up early again and end up sitting through my lectures half asleep. And then I’m not tired early in the evening because I’ve been staying up late. And so on and so on...

What is Somnoactive all about?

We’re a student research project working on the topic of sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to patterns of behavior that promote healthy sleep. We’re doing research on habits that people can form to improve their sleep. With the help of our test subjects we want to help our target group - mainly students - to sleep better.

How is the work structured?

Our study has two parts: the first part, which took place over a 30-day period in Munich with 54 test subjects, is finished. For the second part, which will follow exactly the same steps as in Munich, we are flying at the end of January 2024 to our partner university in Ghana - Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

How do you even go about doing research on sleep?

First and foremost, you need to have a sleep routine. Going to bed and getting up at the same time. As an initial approach, we recorded five-minute videos that we sent to the test subjects every day for 30 days. They watched the videos after getting up in the morning.

What else?

The second key element is a short set of stretches and exercises. This helps to get the blood flowing in the morning. The video presents short exercise routines for participants to do on the day. There are also tips and tricks such as going out into the sun when you get up before doing anything else or just raising the blinds. Or stop drinking coffee eight or 10 hours before going to bed because that’s how long it takes for the body to process it. You can start establishing little habits like these - along with your regular sleeping routine and the small exercise programs. All of those things are briefly introduced in the short videos.

What do you want to achieve with your test subjects?

By accompanying them over the 30-day period, the researchers want to shorten the time it takes them to fall asleep, reduce the number of times they wake during the night, boost recovery and reduce the feeling of tiredness in the daytime.

You’re not doing this research alone. Who is behind the project?

Along with me, seven other students are involved. We really have a little bit of everything that TUM has to offer. One colleague is studying sports science, which is the closest field to our research topic. The rest of us are from aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, informatics, physics, chemistry and biology. It is this diversity in terms of subject areas, among many other things, that defines the project and the Junge Akademie.

What kind of support is the Junge Akademie providing in the project process?

All of us students either submitted unsolicited applications or were nominated for the project. That means that we were a mixed bunch at the start. There was no specific idea. The Junge Akademie supported us in the process of finding an idea. There are also workshops on project management, study design and implementation and handling research data, for example. We have been learning all of those things as the project has continued. They’re useful for our actual studies as well.

And how did the cooperation with the university in Ghana come about?

You could call it a lucky accident. Shortly before the project started, a delegation from KNUST was visiting Munich. That’s how we first got talking with them.

Because they found the project so exciting?

Well, sleep deficiency is a cross-cultural problem. The Ghanaian professor who we’re in touch with was more excited than anyone because she sees this topic as extremely important in the context of mental health. She told us that she herself never gets enough sleep and that this causes stress. She sees the same thing with her students. Mental health suffers significantly - and sleep is something that people can at least easily work on.



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