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September 21, 2023

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Study seeks to assist insomniac students

For junior Laura Lebold, insomnia strikes once or twice a week.

The inability to sleep comes from “things that keep me up and distractions and stuff like that,” she said.

Students like Lebold who are struggling with insomnia are now able to participate in a study that might help them start sleeping at night.

For her PhD dissertation, doctoral student Kyoung Baik is working on a study that covers general insomnia, which includes falling asleep and staying asleep without a medical condition, said Brent Lang, a student in the clinical psychology program.

Lang, who is assisting Baik said the study consists of two therapy sessions which aims to shut off someone’s mind.

“It’s a combination of mindfulness and meditation on one hand,” Lang said. “And on the other hand, it’s trying to get people to not try to challenge their thoughts … but just try to not judge them.”

In order to be mindful about their thoughts, students participate in therapy sessions.

The therapy sessions, which are two sessions a week apart, aims to help students suffering from insomnia fall asleep at night.

During these therapy sessions, those participating in the study work on shutting their mind off when they lay down at night. The sessions are guided by a manuscript that is standardized, but able to be changed to meet an individual’s needs for each student involved in the session.

When a student signs up for the study, the student is given an introduction to the study, along with a list of things to monitor to see if it affects their sleep, what their sleep looks like, caffeine, medications and exercise.

“But we also have other measures that measure individuals’ anxiety and stress in terms of before they go to sleep,” Lang said. “We’re also trying to target those because we’re interested in [it].”

While the main purpose of the study is to help students suffering from insomnia sleep, the second goal is to help decrease anxiety, along with including it in a bigger movement within clinical psychology. The therapy also aims to help students challenge and accept the thoughts in a non-judgmental way, but does not allow the thoughts become complacent.

“It’s being aware that a thought’s just a thought, that it doesn’t control you,” Lang said.

Since the study is using human subjects in order to do the testing, Baik started out with sending her proposal to the Human Subject Review Board [HSRB] for approval. The board consists of faculty and staff members from the University, along with community members who review a research project that is using humans for test subjects, said Hillary Snyder, a research compliance officer in the Office of Research Compliance.

When a research project goes to the review board during their monthly meetings, the projects are expedited to two members of the board to be examined, who look at what kinds of risks participants might encounter while participating in the study. The review board also looks at the benefits that would be presented to the participants.

While the study is still in its preliminary rounds, the results have been promising. But the study will continue until there is a enough people involved, “the ideal [amount] being 80 people,” Lang said.

In order to get more students, emails will be sent to get more people involved. Psychology students receive class credit for participating in the study. Students who participate will also be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift card.

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