Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

Source: King’s College London.

A new research project led by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, is pioneering the use of wrist-worn sleep sensors and smart phone applications to prevent relapse in schizophrenia.

This innovative monitoring approach has not previously been attempted for people with schizophrenia. Using sleep disturbance as an indicator, the researchers aim to detect the early signs of relapse in psychosis so that early preventative interventions can take place in the community setting.

Sleep disturbance is widely recognised as an early sign of relapse in psychosis. In this pilot project, people with schizophrenia will wear a wrist-worn sleep sensor which will be linked up with a smart-phone application to collect sensor data and usage activity. This data will then be analysed before being given to the patient and care team working with schizophrenia patients in the community to enable them to make the necessary preventative measures.

Dr Richard Dobson, from the Department of Biostatistics at the IoPPN at King’s, is one of the leads of the project. He said: “Around 80% of patients treated for a first episode of psychosis relapse within five years. Individuals experiencing a relapse often require hospital admission, and we know that hospital care associated with schizophrenia costs the NHS around £3.9 billion a year.”

“Developing monitoring systems for detecting the early stages of relapse of patients living in the community means that timely interventions for preventing relapse and hospitalisation can be implemented.”

Dr James MacCabe, from the Department of Psychosis Studies at the IoPPN at King’s and joint lead of the project, added: “This project will also help us better understand the relationship between sleep dysfunction and psychosis to progress our understanding of the mechanisms involved.”

The pilot project will recruit 15 participants aged 18-65. The project is funded through the King’s Health Partners Research and Development Challenge Fund, which aims to support researchers to explore and develop innovative ideas that will lead to new discoveries.