Refreshing way to get better sleep

Aug 28 2017

As a third of Australian adults only dream of getting a good night’s rest, University of Newcastle researchers are conducting a nationwide clinical trial designed to improve sleep quality amongst those aged 40-65.

In the REFRESH Study, Associate Professor Mitch Duncan and his team from the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s Cardiovascular Program are investigating whether regular physical activity is the key to a sound kip and greater wellbeing.

“People underestimate the benefits that sleep has to think clearly, feel energised throughout the day and reduce their health risks,” Associate Professor Duncan says. “Many sleep treatments tell people to do physical activity, but they don’t provide the support needed to get active and stay active.

“REFRESH gives this support, which we hope translates to more activity and better sleep.”

Half of those who report poor sleep health also fail to get enough exercise, which elevates their risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety. Work productivity is also impacted, costing the global economy more than $680 billion annually.

“You can have poor sleep without having a diagnosed sleep disorder,” adds Anna Rayward, a PhD student involved with the project. “It’s important we focus on these people because they are often excluded from sleep studies.

“With REFRESH, we want to help people by focusing on changing their behaviour, both day and night, by using the latest science and technology.”

The intervention includes a special smartphone app called “Balanced”, with personalised support from emails, texts and a handbook. Researchers will compare the effectiveness of a sleep plus increased physical activity intervention with a sleep-only intervention.

The 6 month study is looking to recruit 275 people from across Australia, aged 40-65, who report poor quality sleep but don’t have a sleep disorder, and who do less than 90 minutes of physical activity per week.

“From a research perspective, we are really interested in two aspects – can we change people’s sleep and physical activity, and does adding physical activity to a sleep intervention increase the intervention’s ability to improve sleep?” Dr Duncan added.

Enrolment inquiries to Anna Rayward on refreshstudy@newcastle.edu.au or (02) 4921 6057. A short eligibility survey is available at https://tinyurl.com/refreshstudy

Associate Professor Mitch Duncan and Anna Rayward are from the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, researching with HMRI’s Cardiovascular Program. HMRI works in partnership with the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.

Anna Rayward