Sleep Research Unit

The Sleep Research Unit is a multidisciplinary research group, which is reflected in the topics of the academic dissertations. There are several ongoing research projects in co-operation with other Finnish and international research groups. 

The main research interests at the unit are interactions of sleep-disordered breathing and cardiovascular and metabolic function, special emphasis on nocturnal transcutaneous carbon dioxide profile, and menopause, sleep and breathing. 

The Sleep Research Unit also organises Sleep School once a month during the academic year under the umbrella of the Postgraduate Education Unit (PGE). 

The history of the Sleep Research Unit at the Department of Physiology dates back to the 1960’s when Associate Professor Pentti Valleala carried out sleep research in animals. Sleep research in humans started in the 1970’s. In 1979, Jukka Alihanka developed the static-charge sensitive bed (SCSB). The SCSB method was further developed by Olli Polo and implemented in the diagnosis of obstructive and central sleep apnoea, partial upper airway obstruction during sleep as well as in periodic leg movements. In Finland, sleep apnoea was mostly diagnosed with the help of the SCSB until the end of the 20th century. Since 2017, Sleep Research Unit has been part of the Department of Pulmonary Diseases and Clinical Allergology. 

Contact Information

Address: ​Sleep Research Unit, University of Turku, Lemminkäisenkatu 3b, FI-20520 TURKU

Personnel

Professor Tarja Saaresranta

Research Coordinator: Marjo Sunnari

Researchers

Olli Polo
Päivi Polo
Jenni Aittokallio
Ulla Anttalainen
Nea Kalleinen
Salla Lamusuo
Arho Virkki
Irina Virtanen

Doctoral Candidates 

Mia Aro
Laura Lampio
Silja Runsten
Karri Utriainen

Research Projects

The Sleep Research Unit promotes co-operation and dialogue across disciplinary and institutional boundaries within the field of sleep research. Having its roots in basic physiology, the Sleep Research Center aims at unfolding physiological mechanisms behind normal and disturbed sleep and disseminating new data in the field of sleep medicine for the benefit of medical students, health care professionals, scientists and the society. 

Woman-46

Menopause offers a useful model to study the interactions between breathing and vascular disease. Both sleep-disordered breathing and vascular diseases increase after menopause but the effects of ageing and menopause per se are not fully understood. Premenopausal women at the age of 46 are followed up for ten years and studies will be carried out also in a cross-sectional cohort of 56-year old women.

The overall aim of the study is to clarify the interactions of nocturnal breathing abnormalities and metabolic dysfunction in middle-aged women.

The specific aims of the 5- and 10-year follow-up study are to test the effect of menopause on

  • endothelial function and subclinical atherosclerosis 
  • sleep-disordered breathing
  • sleep structure and quality, and
  • daytime sleepiness

with special emphasis on nocturnal transcutaneous carbon dioxide tension profile.

Length: 2001- 

Principal Investigator: Professor Tarja Saaresranta

Esada

ESADA (European Sleep  Apnea Database) is an observational cohort study in collaboration between European sleep centers within the European Union  COST Action B 26 framework. 

The overall aim of the ESADA project is:

  • to build the largest existing database of patients with sleep and breathing disorders. 
  • to collect patient information from a network of European sleep centers.
  • to execute cross-sectional, prospective, interventional or long-term follow-up studies based on information in the data base.

Specific study targets and objectives 

Base cohort 

Primary objective:

  • to generate cross sectional data on anthropometrics, sleepiness measures and comorbidity in European patients with various degree of OSA severity.

Secondary objectives:

  • to measure the incidence of cardiovascular diseases.
  • to prospectively explore the cardiovascular and overall mortality in OSA and its relation to OSA severity and cardiovascular risk factors.
  • to explore the effect of different OSA treatment modalities on hemodynamic and metabolic parameters as well as on cardiovascular morbidity, metabolic disorder and sleepiness. 

Tertiary objectives: 

  • to explore the dose-response relationship between OSA severity and hypertension, hyperglycemia, cardiovascular morbidity, metabolic disorder and sleepiness.
  • to assess the effect of age, gender, domicile as well as cardiovascular and metabolic comorbidity on cardiovascular endpoints in sleep apnea patients 
  • to assess the value of various sleep laboratory procedures in terms of diagnostic and treatment routines on outcome in sleep apnea patients.
  • to assess the safety, tolerability and compliance with long-term CPAP treatment, oral devices and surgery (safety and tolerability) 

European sleep laboratory clinical process evaluation 

  • to assess the regional differences across sleep laboratories in Europe regarding patient populations, treatment allocations, diagnostic work up, as well as adherence to therapy.
  • to transfer know-how and to unify procedures as well as to generate minimum standards between different European sleep laboratories by the use of a standardized data acquisition procedure.
  • to generate a data base to be used for future health economical assessments in sleep apnea patients in relation to the various national health care systems. 

Substudy protocols to be generated from the joint database 

  • to create a network of scientifically active sleepcentres and a joint database to be used for specific patient recruitment in future collaborative studies (e.g. specific cardiovascular, metabolic, genetic and treatment protocols).

Length: 2007- 

Principal Investigator in Finland: Professor Tarja Saaresranta