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Slumber support: MSU sleep study to launch in U.P. nursing homes

A senior woman is shown trying to sleep. Michigan State University researchers are conducting a sleep pattern study to examine and improve ways to maximize sleep in adults 55 years old and up in Upper Peninsula nursing homes. (MaxPixel stock photo)

MARQUETTE — Two Michigan State University experts are working together on a sleep pattern research study to examine and improve ways to maximize sleep in adults 55 years old and up in Upper Peninsula nursing homes.

MSU assistant professor Robin Tucker of the Department of Food, Science and Human Nutrition and Dawn Contreras, a health and nutrition specialist with MSU Extension, have begun the initial stages of the study with a $167,000 grant from Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

Tucker and Contreras are looking to collaborate with U.P. nursing homes, as studies show that U.P. residents are at a higher risk for poor sleep, Tucker said.

Though the study is still in the works, Tucker said that there are two nursing homes in the U.P. that have already signed on to participate in the project.

“We know that sleep’s been neglected for a long time by the people who are interested in improving the health of the public, so we thought this needed to be addressed,” Tucker said. “And our work with the nursing homes suggested that we were right, that they are very interested in adopting these practices to help with their residents feeling better.”

Nearly 40% of Michigan residents fail to achieve the recommended seven hours of sleep. For older adults, in the state, only around 25% meet the sleep recommendation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Michigan is ranked 47th out of all the states in terms of its residents achieving plenty of sleep, Tucker said.

“This is really important because sleep is connected or associated with many, many chronic diseases and conditions,” Tucker noted.

Lack of sleep comes with a higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke or high blood pressure, Tucker explained, adding that the best way to combat poor sleep is to use “common-sense” non-pharmaceutical techniques such as controlling noise and light exposure by using red light night lights in hallways, minimizing exposure to bright light in hallways and rooms at night, encouraging morning exposure to natural light, as well as offering sleep/eye masks and earplugs to residents.

Once the initial stages are implemented, Tucker said that the group hopes to develop educational classes through MSU Extension to teach the public about good sleep practices, relaxation, sleep hygiene, exercise and all the things that can maximize sleep potential.

“Sleep can affect how much you move and sleep can affect what you eat. So sleep is kind of this missing piece of general health because when we sleep, there’s so many systems in the body being affected by sleep,” she said. “And if you’re not getting enough sleep, your ability to function optimally is really, really compromised.”

This collaborative effort with U.P. nursing homes and the grant funding can help raise awareness of this issue, Contreras said in an email.

“Creating ‘sleep friendly’ environments within residential facilities that serve older adults is one way to help build ‘population health’ within a large group of people whose health may be hindered without adequate high-quality sleep,” Contreras said. “We would like to provide residential facilities with sleep-related best practices. We also plan to offer ‘sleep hygiene’ education to residents of participating facilities, their family members and caregivers, and facility staff.”

MSU Extension teaches community-based fall prevention classes throughout the U.P. and Michigan. This idea of focusing on sleep stemmed from learning that many adults in those classes struggled with sleep issues, Contreras said.

Sleep is critical for body and mind health, and sleep education is important, Contreras said.

“I’ll be really excited to see this roll out and to get the feedback from the partnering facilities … When we actually get ready to implement that it will be really exciting,” Tucker said.

Jackie Jahfetson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is jjahfetson@miningjournal.net.

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