ISU researcher exploring the relationship of sleep, health and behavior requests the participation of local children

By Sarah Glenn

For the Journal

POCATELLO –– For the past decade Maria Wong, Ph.D., has been studying sleep’s connection to adolescent behaviors. The Idaho State University professor’s landmark research has been featured in “Time Magazine,” published in scholarly journals and cited by other researchers worldwide.

But to move forward with her most recent study, she needs a little local help. The ISU Psychology Department is looking for children between the ages of 8 and 12 who can participate in a longitudinal study alongside their parents. The study needs at least 150 more participants as it runs its course over the coming years. Activities will include interviews, questionnaires, cognitive tests, wearing an activity watch and an EEG-monitored sleep assessment.

The ISU Sleep Study is a long-term look at sleep, physical and mental health and behavior that will stretch across three years and interview about 200 children.

“In general we want to study the relationship between sleep and physical and mental health and social behavior over time,” Wong said.

The researchers started collecting data in April 2014 and will continue to collect and analyze information until the National Institute of Health grant that funds the study runs out in August 2018.

“The focus is on the children, but because they are so young we want a parent to be involved too,” Wong said.

Participants will be asked to attend a one-hour screening interview. After that, those who qualify for the study will receive a physical exam from a nurse, complete a questionnaire, wear an activity monitoring watch for a week and spend two nights in a sleep lab. Following that phase researchers will follow up with questionnaires.

By the end of the study ISU researchers will have enough information to better understand the risks and protective factors that affect important developmental outcomes for children, adolescents and young adults.

Some of Wong’s earlier research, published in January, concluded that sleep difficulties and insufficient sleep are common among American youth and can predict specific substance-related problems. These problems include binge drinking, driving under the influence of alcohol and risky sexual behavior.

“Sleep difficulties and hours of sleep are a significant predictor of a number of substance-related problems,” according to the paper, published in the February edition of the journal “Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research” and co-authored by Gail C. Robertson and Rachel B. Dyson. “It may be useful to educate adolescents about the importance of sleep, sleep hygiene, and the potential consequences of poor sleep on drinking and related behaviors.”

Other published research from Wong tackled the topic of sleep’s connection to suicide in the teen years. A 2012 paper, co-authored by Kirk J. Brower, published in the “Journal of Psychiatric Research” found that sleep problems “appear to be a robust predictor of subsequent suicidal thoughts and attempts in adolescence and young adulthood.”

For a complete list of the ISU professor’s research, visit https://sites.google.com/a/isu.edu/mmwong/papers.

Participants in her currently ongoing sleep study can receive up to $240 (spread over the course of the study) if eligible and if they participate in the full study. Participants start with $25 for the initial screening. Those interested in a screening can call 228-5577 or e-mail isusleepstudy@gmail.com. More information is available online at http://www.isu.edu/departments/sleepstudy.

The sleep studies are conducted by a team led by Wong, who is also director of experimental psychology at ISU. The ISU team of researchers includes Kirk J. Brower, M.D.; Deirdre A. Conroy, Ph.D.; and Shannon M. Lynch, Ph.D.

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