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Continuous development of top expertise in the - new - field of somnology

In addition to care, the Center for Sleep Medicine also focuses on innovation and improvement of sleep diagnostics that contributes to the right care at the right time. An important part of the scientific research and innovation at Kempenhaeghe intends to achieve just this. In the Eindhoven MedTech Innovation Center ( we cooperate with. Amongst others, the University of Technology Eindhoven, hospitals and partners in industry. There are also research projects aimed at deepening and broadening the know-how of complex and – sometimes relatively – rare sleep disorders.

Our scientific activities in sleep medicine take place under the direction of prof. dr. Sebastiaan Overeem. He is somnologist at Kempenhaeghe and professor for 'Intelligent Systems for Sleep Disorders' at the University of Technology Eindhoven.

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Advanced diagnostics: simplifying and improving sleep examinations

Sleep is not easy to examine. The current golden standard is video-polysomnography. This type of examination generates much information on the patient’s quality of sleep. However, there are restrictions when we measure someone’s sleep during one or at the most two nights, while this person is supposed to sleep, plastered with electrodes in a sleep laboratory with a camera aimed at him. Moreover, this type of diagnostics is expensive, in part because the analysis and interpretation of the measurements is for the most part manual work.

Technological innovation can simplify diagnostics and literally bring it closer to the patient. Currently there is a growth in apps and portable devices claiming to measure sleep. They are, however, not accurate enough for the diagnosis of sleep disorders. That is why we cooperate with partners in the development of technologies to diagnose and monitor in the patient’s home environment. We expect that this will also improve the accessibility of sleep diagnostics and reduce the costs for diagnosis and treatment.

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SOMNIA-database: smart data handling

Data from large numbers of patients are required for scientific research. The solution seems to be to link patient care to scientific research.

We ask patients of the Center for Sleep Medicine – if deemed suitable – if we may record sleep registration data anonymously in the so-called SOMNIA database. Data from diagnostic tests can often be deployed in scientific research.

Moreover, we ask some patients that come in for sleep registration, if we may simultaneously test a new technology. It concerns types of tests that cause minimal stress – a wrist pulse monitor, pressure sensors underneath the mattress or microphones to register sounds – and can be relatively easily added. We thus build a data bank with reliable clinical data that supports the development of new technologies for sleep studies.

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Insomnia research: improving insomnia care

Chronic sleeplessness - insomnia – is common. Almost one out of ten Dutch people suffers from it. Unfortunately, we find in all echelons of care insufficient expertise and facilities to diagnose and treat everyone with insomnia.

Kempenhaeghe, as center of expertise, takes its responsibility in solving the scarcity in first line insomnia care. Together with representatives from the first line, Kempenhaeghe works on the development of high-quality, cost-effective healthcare models that guarantee that first line care providers can provide adequate insomnia care close to the patient. These healthcare models are tested via scientifically justified (cost) effectivity analyses.

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Working on prevention: sleeping well starts during the day

Howe someone functions during the day influences the quality of sleep and the other way around. Mapping behavior and daytime activities in relation to subjective sleep experience is a recently started line of research in which Kempenhaeghe cooperates with the University of Technology Eindhoven, amongst others.

In this study, the focus is on mapping behavior, state of mind, and perception of sleep and being awake during 24 hours, rather than on testing sleep alone. Measuring someone’s daytime activities and relating this to the quality of sleep is still unmapped territory, in which new technology such as the Internet of Things can help.

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Ratifying the expert function: broad research into sleep disorders and specific target groups

The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has designated the Center for Sleep Medicine via a so-called NFU-acknowledgement as expert in the field of the rare neurological sleep disorders narcolepsy and the Kleine Levin syndrome. We conduct scientific research in these fields and in the fields of other sleep disorders.

The nature and goal of our research projects are very diverse. Examples are: a study of the development of better diagnosis and treatment methods, a study of how a certain disorder manifests itself, a study of the coherence between sleep disorders and other medical conditions, a study of the improvement of medical guidelines, etc.

We also focus scientific research on specific target groups. Sleep disorders in children can manifest themselves in a different way than in adults. Moreover, the quality of sleep itself also influences the child’s development. Relatively little is known about its mechanisms and effects.

The same goes for sleep disorders in people with an intellectual disability. Little scientific research has been done into how sleep affects their behavior and functioning. The Center for Sleep Medicine plays a leading role, in cooperation with the Center for Residential Epilepsy Care at Kempenhaeghe.