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The University of Alabama

UA Doctoral Student Seeks Subjects for Study of Insomnia in the Grief Process

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – James Soeffing, a doctoral candidate in psychology working at The University of Alabama’s Sleep Research Project, is conducting a study that focuses on the type of insomnia that occurs after a person loses a loved one.

The study is for people who have lost a loved one sometime in the past two years and are experiencing both bereavement symptoms and insomnia since the loss. All volunteers will receive treatment for their insomnia. The whole study takes about four months with the treatment phase lasting about six weeks. During the majority of the study, volunteers are expected to do little more than fill out a one-minute questionnaire about the quality of their sleep each night.

“Our over-arching goal is to learn if we are able to improve the quality of life for a group of people that has traditionally been underserved,” Soeffing says.

Difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep is a common problem with as much as 30 percent of the population experiencing some form of insomnia during their life, Soeffing says. Poor sleep is associated with a variety of negative consequences, including impaired daytime function and lower quality of life. When insomnia occurs amid other major life stressors, it can lead to an exacerbation of symptoms associated with that stressor. One major life stressor that is often associated with poor sleep is bereavement related to the loss of a loved one.

Losing a love one can be a difficult experience, but it is something that all people are likely to go through at some point in their life, Soeffing says. Bereaved persons typically suffer a variety of symptoms including depression, anxiety, anger and longing for the lost person. Recent scientific data suggests that about a quarter of people who lose a loved one will report significant problems with their sleep.

If you are interested in learning more about this study, contact The University of Alabama Sleep Research Project at 205/348-6385.

The Sleep Research Project is a research/clinical training program housed within the clinical psychology program in UA’s department of psychology. It is staffed by Dr. Kenneth Lichstein, psychology post-docs, graduate students and undergraduate students. The project also has close collaborative relationships with sleep disorders centers, sleep specialist physicians, statisticians and methodologists.

The psychology department is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.