What is Sleep?


lthough everyone needs to sleep to maintain their health, the question “what is sleep?” has proven surprisingly difficult. During the state of sleep, the brain exhibits profound changes.

It is now believed the function of sleep is to clear metabolic waste products from the pathways of the brain. This helps explain why healthy sleep must be sufficient in both duration and depth.

A Guide to Sleep and Clinical Trials

What Conditions Are Associated With Sleep?

The most common health condition associated with sleep is insomnia. Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Sleep disturbances can be physiological in nature (for example, Restless Legs Syndrome) or psychological (for example, nightmares.)

Experts have estimated that about 25% of Americans develop some degree of insomnia in any given year. In 75% of cases, it passes without long-term damage to sleep habits.

Other common sleep disorders include:

  • Snoring
  • Sleep apnea, “pauses” in breathing often caused by soft tissue blockage in the airway
  • Sleep hypoventilation, trouble breathing in sleep caused by respiratory muscle weakness
  • Restless Legs Syndrome, which causes discomfort only alleviated by moving the legs
  • Bruxism, the grinding of the teeth during sleep, which can damage the teeth and jaw

Sleep medicine experts also recognize several less common sleep disorders. These include things like narcolepsy, nightmares and night terrors, and Rapid Eye Movement Behavior Disorder.

Maintaining Sleep Health

Many chronic sleep conditions arise with no known cause. However, maintaining good sleep hygiene can help. Sleep hygiene refers to the whole collection of habits that affect sleep health.

In general, it is a good idea to develop a consistent bedtime and routine for “going to bed.” Discontinue the use of phones and other “screens” an hour before bed, since the blue light of these devices inhibits the brain’s natural response to reduced lighting at night.

Remember, many factors can contribute to sleep health issues:

  • Certain medications, such as those used for high blood pressure and asthma
  • Chronic pain disorders and other conditions that cause persistent discomfort
  • Stress in your personal or work life and conditions like anxiety or depression

Each individual has a slight variance in sleep need. Likewise, the duration of sleep needed does change depending on life stage. However, it is important to know everyone needs about eight hours of nightly sleep to maintain mental and physical health.

Medical Research on Sleep

With the answers to key questions on “why do we sleep?” coming into view, sleep researchers are continuing to pursue clinical sleep studies looking for new sleep disorder treatments.

Sleep clinical care has undergone revolutionary changes in recent years thanks to imaging technology that precisely pinpoints sleep-related changes in the human brain at any age.

Current Clinical Trials on Sleep

This list includes all clinical trials on sleep recognized by ClinicalTrials.gov. To add sleep clinical trials to our list, contact us.

  • Quarantine and Telerehabilitation in Chronic Pain Patients During COVID-19 Pandemic.
    on May 8, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Chronic PainIntervention:   Other: Exercise GroupSponsors:   Clinical Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation Reasearch Laboratory;   University of ThessalyRecruiting

  • Glasses for Adolescent Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder
    on May 7, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase DisorderInterventions:   Device: Amber Glasses;   Device: Clear Lens GlassesSponsor:   Mayo ClinicRecruiting

  • Impact of Neck Inspiratory Muscle Activation During Sleep in ICU Patients After a COVID 19 ARDS
    on May 1, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   ARDS;   COVID-19Intervention:   Other: PSGSponsor:   University Hospital, BordeauxRecruiting

  • The Psychological, Social, and Economic Impacts of COVID-19
    on April 30, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   COVID-19;   Chronic Disease;   Psychiatric Disorder;   Cardiovascular DiseasesIntervention:   Sponsors:   University of Ottawa;   Hopital du Sacre-Coeur de Montreal;   Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre;   Southlake Regional Health Centre;   The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute;   Centre Integre Universitaire de Sante et Services Sociaux du Nord de l'ile de Montreal;   Centre for Addiction and Mental Health;   CHEO Research Institute;   Ottawa Heart Institute Research Corporation;   McGill University;   Johns Hopkins University;   Université de Montréal;   The Royal's Institute of Mental Health ResearchRecruiting

  • Minimal Surgical Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
    on April 29, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Sleep Apnea Syndromes, ObstructiveIntervention:   Procedure: Minimally invasive, in-office, RF reduction of the affected areaSponsor:   Hillel Yaffe Medical CenterRecruiting

  • High-resolution Oximetry to Diagnose Obstructive Sleep Apnea
    on April 28, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Sleep ApneaIntervention:   Diagnostic Test: OximetrySponsor:   University of Sao Paulo General HospitalRecruiting

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea & Covid-19 Outcomes
    on April 27, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   COVID;   Obstructive Sleep Apnea;   PneumoniaIntervention:   Diagnostic Test: PolysomnographySponsors:   Koç University;   Koc Healthcare Istanbul American Hospital, Marmara University Pendik Education and Research HospitalRecruiting

  • Low- Load- High- Repetitions Training Versus Pilates on Physical Fitness in Inactive Women
    on April 24, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Sedentary BehaviorInterventions:   Other: Low- weight-high-repetitions training;   Other: Pilates trainingSponsors:   University of Thessaly;   University of NicosiaRecruiting

  • Physical Activity in University Students Around COVID-19 Confinement
    on April 24, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Physical ActivityIntervention:   Other: On-Line SurveySponsors:   Basque Country University;   University of Cadiz;   University of Extremadura;   Universidad de Zaragoza;   Universidad de Granada;   University of Castilla-La Mancha;   University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria;   Universidad de León;   University of Seville;   University of Valencia;   Universidad Miguel Hernandez de Elche;   Technical University of Madrid;   Universidad Pública de Navarra;   University of the Balearic Islands;   Universitat Jaume I;   University of CantabriaRecruiting

  • Different Exercising Intensities and Frequencies of Exercise on Depressive Mood and Insomnia
    on April 21, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Sleep Disorder;   Depressive SymptomsIntervention:   Behavioral: Exercise interventionSponsor:   The University of Hong KongRecruiting

  • Providing Mental Health Precision Treatment
    on April 13, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Depression;   Addiction;   Anxiety;   Sleep DisturbanceInterventions:   Behavioral: Enhanced Feedback + Standard Feedback;   Device: Headspace app + Standard Feedback;   Device: Headspace app + Enhanced Feedback + Standard Feedback;   Device: SilverCloud + Standard Feedback;   Device: SilverCloud app +Enhanced Feedback +Standard FeedbackSponsor:   University of MichiganRecruiting

  • Home Respiratory Polygraphy in Childhood Sleep Apnea-Hypopnea Syndrome (CHILDSLEEP).
    on April 9, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Sleep Apnea;   Home Respiratory Polygraphy Sleep Study;   Childhood Sleep Apnea;   Polysomnography;   Therapeutic DecisionIntervention:   Diagnostic Test: Home respiratory polygraphySponsor:   Hospital Universitario San Juan de AlicanteRecruiting

Why Are More Clinical Trials on Sleep Necessary?

There may be no single “cure for insomnia”, but clinical trials on sleep help doctors develop effective sleep disorder treatment protocols for the various situations where sleep is disturbed.

Ongoing sleep research continues to redefine what we know about each of these conditions. Insomnia treatments are just one of the new sleep clinical resources coming from this effort.


The majority of American adults experience sleep disturbances at some point in life. With that in mind, clinical trials on sleep truly affect everyone. Unfortunately, sleep disorders are under-diagnosed – and those who suffer often do not pursue treatment. Participating in clinical studies on sleep is one way to help ensure you, and others, will rest better.