Researchers in the University at Buffalo School of Nursing have received two grants totaling more than $260,000 to develop interventions that help young adults quit smoking and improve sleep among people with multiple sclerosis.
The projects, led by Eunhee Park, PhD, assistant professor, and Rebecca Lorenz, PhD, associate professor, are funded through K12 awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The K12 grant is a career development award presented to talented new faculty that provides mentored training to improve research skill and experience. The two-year awards received by Park and Lorenz each amount to nearly $130,000.
Preventing smoking at a crucial age
Nearly 99% of smokers develop the habit by the age of 26, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Therefore, Park finds it critical that researchers develop smoking cessation interventions for young adults, particularly those from vulnerable populations.
“Smoking is the single most important factor for disease and death,” said Park, adding that quitting before 30 years old can significantly reduce this risk. “In spite of the decline in smoking rates, a large proportion of young adults continue to smoke and have limited access to tobacco control treatment.”
That portion includes young adults of low socioeconomic status, says Park, who smoke at a more than 10% higher rate than the general United States population.
Park will work to understand the factors that influence smoking behaviors and the barriers that prevent quitting for low socioeconomic young adults, as well as the challenges faced by nurses who deliver smoking cessation treatment.
The findings will guide the development of a nurse-led intervention targeted toward this population in urban and rural primary care clinics.
Resetting the circadian clock
Neurodegenerative disorders are conditions that lead to the destruction of nerve cells in the brain or nervous system. They affect millions of people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
People with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative disorders share the common characteristic of having abnormal circadian rhythms, which can disrupt sleep-wake cycles.
However, treatments that target the circadian rhythm offer promise for relief by improving sleep and reducing common symptoms such as fatigue and daytime sleepiness, says Lorenz.
Using the grant, Lorenz will revise SleepWell!, a novel intervention that combines mindfulness practices and non-light cues to reset the circadian clock among older adults with and without neurodegenerative disorders.
“Sleep disruptions are widespread among older adults,” said Lorenz. “The high prevalence of disrupted sleep, together with the lack of personalized sleep health interventions, indicates a pressing need to develop new or improve existing therapies for affected adults where they live, work and socialize.”
The study will investigate factors that increase the risk of poor sleep and examine the effectiveness of SleepWell! on older adults with multiple sclerosis.