Pitt Receives $9.8 Million From National Institute on Aging to Study Insomnia in the Elderly

Issue Date: 
September 13, 2010
Timothy H. MonkTimothy H. Monk

The University of Pittsburgh has received a $9.8 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to study insomnia in older adults. Insomnia affects nearly 25 percent of seniors and, in more severe forms, can lead to reduced quality of life, impaired function, higher health care costs, and increased risk of other medical conditions. The goal of the five-year AgeWise study is to better understand the biological causes of insomnia in seniors.

“The strength of this research project is that we simultaneously can attack the problem on several different fronts,” said Timothy H. Monk, the project’s lead research investigator and a professor of psychiatry in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the Human Chronobiology Research Program at the Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic (WPIC) of UPMC. “Insomnia in seniors can result from biological clock problems, sleep-intensity problems, stress and arousal issues, the functional anatomy of the patient’s brain, and particular issues of her or his genetic makeup. All of these different research issues will be covered in our AgeWise study.”

Monk stressed the need for this research in older adults because of the prevalence of insomnia in this population, age-related changes in physiology and brain structure that are relevant to sleep-wake processes, and the many comorbidities that often accompany advancing age. He points to a societal imperative, too, as the baby-boom generation reaches its seventh decade of life.

The AgeWise researchers are seeking people who are older than 60 and who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or who feel poorly rested despite having adequate opportunity for sleep. Those who are eligible for the study will be given a detailed health screening, which will include a sleep evaluation. Before and after insomnia therapy, they will participate in one of three different detailed laboratory evaluations lasting several days.

Compensation will be provided for completing the study. Those interested should contact the AgeWise toll-free number 1-866-647-8283. Some healthy seniors without sleep problems also will be recruited.