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Collaborative Success Stories: Slumber Cruncher

University of Missouri health researcher Dr. Jen-Hao Chen uses data analysis to understand sleep.

Insufficient sleep can cause serious problems such as cognitive decline and chronic disease, but many people sleep poorly. In search of solutions, Chen partnered with sociologists and epidemiologists from the University of Chicago. The team analyzed national presentative data from a study of older adults across the United States who wore special wrist bands to measure sleep. The scientists tracked levels of social participation – volunteering, attending religious services and taking part in organized group activities – and analyzed the impact of social participation on sleep outcomes. They found that those who participated more slept better.

“When it comes to the discussion of healthy lifestyle, being socially connected and sleeping well are not often mentioned together,” says Chen. “We must consider a comprehensive approach that emphasizes the role of engaging in our communities.”

It is not yet clear whether the higher levels of participation cause better sleep, or whether good health permits individuals to both participate and sleep well. Using innovative sleep measurements, Chen plans to continue researching how various social relationships affect sleep behaviors and outcomes.

Dr. Jen-Hao Chen is an assistant professor of health science with appointments in the School of Health Professions and the College of Arts and Science.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine