It's well known how debilitating insomnia can be; but what about the opposite effect - excessive sleepiness?
A Hunter New England Health-led study will look at how light treatment can improve sleep and daytime functioning and reduce sleepiness in those with hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness).
The study will trial the use of bright light exposure, via commercially available glasses, to better align patients' internal body clocks with the outside environment.
There is some evidence suggesting that hypersomniacs have a delayed circadian timing, with sleep occurring later at night.
HNE Health senior sleep scientist Gemma Paech is leading the trial, in collaboration with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI)* and said excessive sleepiness is highly prevalent in Australia.
"Around 19 per cent of the population experience excessive sleepiness. Despite obtaining adequate and good quality uninterrupted sleep, individuals with hypersomnia wake feeling unrefreshed and are in an almost constant state of sleepiness," Dr Paech said.
The study will also consider changes in waking functions such as reaction time and mood in in order to improve patients overall quality of life.
Currently there are no pharmacological treatments available to specifically treat hypersomnia. Non-pharmacological therapies such as light exposure may offer alternative, non-invasive treatment options for patients.
"Light exposure has been shown to improve subjective sleepiness, alertness and waking functions. Light is also the primary synchroniser between external and internal circadian rhythms. In other words, light helps to keep internal circadian rhythms aligned with external factors, such as the 24-hour day," Dr Paech said.
Depending on the timing of exposure, light can shift circadian rhythms. Exposure to light in the early morning can shift sleep earlier and exposure to light in the evening can shift sleep later at night.
"In patients with hypersomnia, morning light exposure can work to advance sleep, keeping the internal and external rhythms aligned which could improve concentration, memory, attention, alertness and decrease sleepiness," Dr Paech said.
The trial is aiming to recruit 20 patients with hypersomnia (including idiopathic hypersomnia). Ten will be randomised into a light treatment and 10 into behavioural treatment condition. Participants will then be assigned into either a light treatment or behavioural treatment condition. Participants assigned to the light treatment will wear re-timer light therapy glasses each morning for 30-60 minutes after waking, while the other group will be given a series of actions to complete at home.
The treatment phase is completed by the participants at home for two weeks. Anyone who is interested in being part of the study can contact Dr Paech at email@example.com