Professor Alan Smeaton

Mental Health Week: Read about Prof Alan Smeaton’s work on understanding what behaviours and factors influence our sleep

Submitted on Tuesday, 07/02/2023

Have you ever wondered why you feel so refreshed and energised after a good night’s sleep? Sleep is essential for our overall health and well-being, and it plays a crucial role in our mental and emotional health. Mental health and sleep are closely linked, as the quality of sleep can greatly impact one’s emotional and psychological well-being, and one’s well-being can cause disturbances to sleep. Research has shown that people with sleep disorders are more likely to experience mental health issues. For example, a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that people with insomnia were more likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who slept normally.

On the other hand, getting enough quality sleep can have a positive effect on mental health. Studies have shown that people who sleep well have a lower risk of developing depression and anxiety. Additionally, people who have mental health conditions and receive treatment for their sleep disorders often see an improvement in their symptoms.

Today is the beginning of Mental Health Week so it’s a good opportunity to highlight Professor Alan Smeaton’s project that aimed to visualise human behaviour patterns specifically focusing on sleep.

The project analysed sleep data from many participants, collected through various techniques including wrist-worn accelerometers, EEG, millimetre length microwaves, and smartphone apps such as the ResMed S+ iPhone app.

Prof Smeaton says,  “To help us better understand changes in sleep patterns over time, we have extended the use of a signal analysis technique called a periodogram. This is a graphical visualisation that allows us to see shifts in sleep patterns over extended periods of time, giving us valuable insights into underlying changes in people’s lives. By analysing years of sleep data, we are able to reveal important information about people’s overall well-being. We have identified correlations between sleep patterns and factors such as quality of  life, stress levels, exercise levels, and more. Additionally, we’ve applied our insights into underlying human behaviours to other types of data, such as activity levels, sports training data, and performance and mood analysis.”

At the Insight SFI Research Centre of Data Analytics, we’re committed to using data to improve our understanding of human behaviour and make a positive impact on people’s lives. If you have any questions about our research on the visualisation of human behaviour patterns and sleep please contact lead project researcher Prof Alan Smeaton, Insight DCU.

Article written by Andrea Clarke, Research Communications officer, Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics.