A novel, digital, immersive virtual reality (VR)-based mind–body approach, designed to reduce bedtime arousal in adolescents with insomnia.
Performance of Fitbit Charge 3 Against Polysomnography in Measuring Sleep in Adolescent Boys and Girls
We evaluated the performance of Fitbit Charge 3™ (FC3), a multi-sensor commercial sleep-tracker, for measuring sleep in adolescents against gold-standard laboratory polysomnography (PSG). Single-night PSG and FC3 sleep outcomes were compared in thirty-nine adolescents (22 girls; 16-19 years), 12 of whom presented with clinical/subclinical DSM-5 insomnia symptoms (7 girls). Discrepancy analysis, Bland-Altman plots, and epoch-by-epoch analyses were used to evaluate FC3 performance. The influence of several factors potentially affecting FC3 performance (e.g., sex, age, body mass index, firmware version, and magnitude of heart rate changes between consecutive PSG epochs) was also tested. In the sample of healthy adolescents, FC3 systematically underestimated PSG total sleep time by about 11 min and sleep efficiency by 2.5%, and overestimated wake after sleep onset by 9 min. Proportional biases were detected for “light” and “deep” sleep duration, resulting in significant underestimation of these parameters for those participants having longer PSG N1+ N2 and N3 durations, respectively. No significant systematic bias was detected for sleep efficiency and sleep onset latency. Epoch-by-epoch analysis showed sleep-stage sensitivity (average proportion of PSG epochs correctly classified by the device for a given sleep stage) of 68% for wake, 78% for “light” sleep, 59% for “deep” sleep, and 69% for rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in healthy sleepers. Similar results were found in the sample of adolescents with insomnia symptoms. Body mass index was positively associated with FC3-PSG discrepancies in wake after sleep onset (R 2 = .16, p = .048). The magnitude of the heart rate acceleration/deceleration between consecutive PSG epochs was an important factor affecting FC3 classifications of sleep stages. Our results are in line with a general trend in the literature, suggesting better performance for the recently introduced multi-sensor devices compared to motion-only devices, although further developments are needed to improve accuracy in sleep stage classification and wake detection. Further insight is needed to determine factors potentially affecting device performance, such as accuracy and reliability (consistency of performance over time), in different samples and conditions.
Introduction: Insomnia disorder is a common sleep disorder and frequently emerges in the context of menopause, being associated with menopause-specific factors such as hot flashes and other psychosocial variables. Increased vulnerability to stress may also contribute to the development of insomnia in midlife women. Here, we aimed to investigate whether there are differences in physiological reactivity to acute psychosocial stress in women with menopausal insomnia compared with controls.
Methods: We investigated cortisol and heart rate [HR] responses to an acute experimental psychosocial stress (Trier Social Stress Test, TSST) approximately 1 h after waking in the morning in midlife women with ( n = 22) and without ( n = 16) DSM-IV insomnia disorder (Age: 50.05 ± 3.10 years), developed in the context of menopause.
Results: Despite similar perceived stress levels, women with insomnia showed blunted HR increases (~29% HR acceleration) to the TSST compared to controls (~44% HR acceleration) ( p = 0.026). No group differences in HR were detected at baseline or during post-task recovery. Cortisol stress responses were inconclusive, with most of the women (60%) failing to exhibit significant cortisol increases in response to the TSST. A greater magnitude of the cortisol awakening response (CAR) predicted the likelihood of being a non-responder ( p = 0.036), showing the confounding effect of CAR on cortisol stress responses.
Discussion: Women with menopausal insomnia show blunted cardiac responses to stress, suggesting alterations in the autonomic reactivity to acute stress. Whether these alterations are pre-existing or are a consequence of insomnia, needs to be determined.
How the COVID‐19 Pandemic Has Changed Our Lives: A Study of Psychological Correlates Across 59 Countries
Objective: This study examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social restrictions or quarantines on the mental health of the global adult population.
Method: A sample of 6,882 individuals ( M age = 42.30; 78.8% female) from 59 countries completed an online survey asking about several pandemic‐related changes in life and psychological status.
Results: Of these participants, 25.4% and 19.5% reported moderate‐to‐severe depression (DASS‐21) and anxiety symptoms (GAD‐7), respectively. Demographic characteristics (e.g. higher‐income country), COVID‐19 exposure (e.g., having had unconfirmed COVID‐19 symptoms), government‐imposed quarantine level, and COVID‐19‐based life changes (e.g., having a hard time transitioning to working from home; increase in verbal arguments or conflict with other adult in home) explained 17.9% of the variance in depression and 21.5% in anxiety symptoms.
Conclusions: In addition to posing a high risk to physical health, the COVID‐19 pandemic has robustly affected global mental health, so it is essential to ensure that mental health services reach individuals showing pandemic‐related depression and anxiety symptoms.
Stress, Sleep, and Autonomic Function in Healthy Adolescent Girls and Boys: Findings from the NCANDA Study
Objectives : Starting in adolescence, female sex is a strong risk factor for the development of insomnia. Reasons for this are unclear but could involve altered stress reactivity and/or autonomic nervous system (ANS) dysregulation, which are strongly associated with the pathophysiology of insomnia. We investigated sex differences in the effect of stress on sleep and ANS activity in adolescents, using the first night in the laboratory as an experimental sleep-related stressor.
Design : Repeated measures (first night vs. a subsequent night) with age (older/younger) and sex (males/females) as between factors.
Setting: Recordings were performed at the human sleep laboratory at SRI International.
Participants : One hundred six healthy adolescents (Age, mean ± SD: 15.2 ± 2.0 years; 57 boys).
Measures: Polysomnographic sleep, nocturnal heart rate (HR), and frequency-domain spectral ANS HR variability (HRV) indices.
Results : Boys and girls showed a first-night effect, characterized by lower sleep efficiency, lower %N1 and %N2 sleep, more wake after sleep onset and %N3 sleep, altered sleep microstructure (increased high-frequency sigma and Beta1 electroencephalographic activity), and reduced vagal activity ( P < .05) on the first laboratory night compared to a subsequent night. The first night ANS stress effect (increases in HR and suppression in vagal HRV during rapid eye movement sleep) was greater in girls than boys P < .05). Conclusions: Sleep and ANS activity were altered during the first laboratory night in adolescents, with girls exhibiting greater ANS alterations than boys. Findings suggest that girls may be more vulnerable than boys to sleep-specific stressors, which could contribute to their increased risk for developing stress-related sleep disturbances.
The use of immersive virtual reality and slow breathing to enhance relaxation and sleep in adolescents
Introduction: Sleep disturbances frequently emerge during adolescence amongst profound, normative, sleep maturation and biopsychosocial changes. Factors like stress, worry or rumination may make falling asleep and maintaining sleep more difficult. Here, we evaluate the efficacy of a novel intervention based on virtual reality (VR) and slow breathing to promote bedtime relaxation and facilitate sleep in high-school adolescents.
Methods: Twenty-nine 16-18 year-old adolescents with (N=9, 6 girls) and without (N=20, 11 girls) sleep difficulties underwent two counterbalanced in-lab relaxation and baseline polysomnography (PSG) nights. For the relaxation condition, immediately preceding bedtime, participants were engaged in slow diaphragmatic breathing (to promote physiological downregulation) whilst passively experiencing a relaxation immersive VR environment, designed to promote cognitive relaxation/distraction (20min). On the baseline night, participants engaged in quiet activities (e.g., reading a book) before bedtime (20min).
Results: The VR intervention resulted in a significant immediate increase in perceived relaxation and reduced worry (p<0.05). Also, heart rate dropped (~5bpm) in the pre-to-post intervention (p<0.05), while no significant change in heart rate was evident before and after the time spent in quiet activities on the baseline night. PSG-defined sleep onset latency was shorter (~6min reduction) and sleep efficiency was greater (~3% increase) on the VR relaxation night compared to the baseline night (p<0.05). In addition, baseline sleep onset latency was related to the magnitude of the baseline-to-relaxation reduction in sleep onset latency in participants (R2=0.70; p<0.01). There was no apparent difference in responses to the VR intervention between adolescents with or without insomnia. Conclusion: Our data highlight the potential for combining cognitive relaxation/distraction strategies, using immersive VR technology and physiological downregulation, to promote bedtime relaxation and improve overall sleep quality in adolescents. Further research is needed to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of such interventions over time. Support: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) R01HL139652 (to MdZ)