Renowned Professor Discusses WCMC-Q Students’ Involvement in Breakthrough Sleep Study

Published October 15th, 2009 - 11:53 GMT

Cornell psychology professor and best selling author James Maas, PhD, is including WCMC-Q premedical students in his latest study on the relationship between sleep and overall health.

“This is a huge study and it’s got a nice cross-cultural element,” says Dr. Maas, who was in Doha this week to give lectures to WCMC-Q students for his Psychology 101 course. “I’m excited to conduct this study in Qatar as well as in New York because I think students in Doha could benefit from giving sleep more of a priority. Many students in Doha practice a very nice custom of spending time with their parents and grandparents, but it’s a custom that could take away from study time and sleep time. We’re seeing a lot of students trying to survive on five or six hours when they are supposed to have at least nine.”

“Sleep deprivation affects alertness and it shortens your life,” continued Maas, whose book “Power Sleep” topped the best selling US book charts when it was released. 

At Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, Dr. Maas’ Psychology 101 course draws as many as 1300 students, making it the largest live lecture in the US. While working on his latest book, which reviews sleep-monitoring systems, he found a new product that impressed him—the Zeo Personal Sleep Coach—and decided to use it for a study involving 450 of his students from both Ithaca and Qatar. He considers the study especially pertinent to medical students.

“More than a few doctors aren’t getting enough sleep, and this affects everything, including their energy level, stamina, how patient they are with their patients, how quickly they can diagnose uncommon disorders and how quickly they can pick up and parse out treatments,” Dr. Maas said. In addition, he says there are at least 89 definable sleep disorders.
To collect data for the study, students used Zeo for several nights. Zeo consists of a wireless headband that monitors brainwaves and a small alarm clock-like bedside display. The bedside display receives signals from the headband, interprets which phase of sleep you are in, and displays your sleep data. Each morning, the students received a sleep score, called ZQ, and, over the course of the study, analyzed their own their sleep trends to apply what they learned in the classroom.

WCMC-Q students say the study has caused them to think more seriously about their sleep. “One thing I realized, and I think it’s really important, is that even if we stay up late studying and working for many hours, we won’t be providing the best health care to our patients because our brains just won’t be functioning well,” said Nour Barakat, a WCMC-Q second-year premed student participating in the study.

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