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Sleep and mood research receives international attention

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New research into how sleep affects the mood of people with and without dementia in nursing homes has received international attention.

Faculty of Health Masters graduate Donnamay Brown’s thesis, Sleep and agitation in nursing home residents with and without dementia, recently received the International Psychogeriatric Association (IPA) Junior Research Award in Psychogeriatrics.

Her study led a field of 24 international submissions in the 2015 awards.

Donnamay has just returned from Berlin where she presented her research which has also been published in International Psychogeriatrics.

“One of the main reasons the study was undertaken is because benzodiazepines (sleeping pills) are used regularly by residents in aged-care facilities,” Donnamay said.

“A couple of years ago my supervisor Dr Juanita Westbury looked at benzodiazepine use in aged-care facilities and found that in Tasmania, rates were around 40%, almost one in two residents had a benzodiazepine script.

“We wanted to see if residents were in fact having issues sleeping.”

As part of her research, Donnamay surveyed 49 residents in four nursing homes across southern Tasmania.

“We found no relationship between sleep and physically aggressive behaviours, but found a relationship between sleep and verbal agitation,” Donnamay said.

“The study found there was a clear link between verbal agitation and night time sleep for residents without dementia, which is important when considering the placement of residents in aged-care facilities.

“If residents who have nocturnal agitation, or are more active at night, which is often characteristic of people with earlier stages of dementia due to circadian shifts, are placed with residents without dementia, these residents without dementia are more likely to be grumpy in the morning.

“While this is simple, if this happened regularly, this could impact on residents’ quality and enjoyment of life.

“By performing the study I was hoping to draw attention to the importance of a good night’s sleep for residents, as there is literature suggesting this isn’t always prioritised.

“The aged-care facility is home for the residents, and factors that may reduce sleep such as lighting, noise, night-time shift change-overs, staff movement and staff interactions should be considered as important components that could improve or reduce the quality care given to residents.”

Donnamay recently graduated with her Masters in Clinical Psychology from the Faculty of Health, and is now based in the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre in the Faculty.

Her research furthers her interest in care and the elderly where her Honours thesis looked at the sensory perception in the elderly and how it relates to driving.

(Source: University of Tasmania)

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Posted On: 17 December, 2015
Modified On: 19 December, 2015

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