An article in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye this morning. It discussed how scientists from the University of Pennsylvania are researching biomarkers, which are characteristics or substances in the body, to measure sleepiness.
Initially, when reading the article, I was excited about the possibilities of this research, for example, looking at sleepiness as a measure for the potential risk of diseases such as diabetes. Measuring people’s levels of sleepiness has the potential to improve overall health.
However, I can see a more negative potential for this research. It is one thing to measure how “sleepy” a person is but it is another to measure the ability of someone to cope with it. Dr Dinges raises the debate when he states “The ability to pinpoint who handles sleep loss poorly brings up ethical issues. For example, for positions that involve a lot of travel or long hours, what companies want to screen candidates for their natural ability to weather sleep loss?” Take an example, say you are applying for a job. Sleeping six hours per night is normal for you. As part of the interview process, you are required to go through a test which measures how “sleepy” you are, and based on the results of the test, you fail to get the job. In the example, the test failed to measure how well you cope with your level of sleepiness.
On the flipside, some companies appear to be using this technology in a positive way. The company in Melbourne that was raised in the articleÂ has developed special eyeglasses that can give truckdrivers a “sleepiness” score in real time.
I think in the end that Dr Shaw, also from the University of Pennsylvania, has the final say. He believes that there is no one single biomarker that can measure sleepiness. He states in the article that “we are going to need a panel of markers, each of which is going to be imprecise on its own.”
We can only wait and see further outcomes from this research.
You can read the article at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204369404577206952841644944.html?mod=googlenews_wsj. Please let me know what you think.
If you are one of those people who doesn’t need to measure, you know you are not getting enough sleep, Wenatex holds free seminars all over Australia educating people on how to get a better night’s sleep. If you are interested, you can register your interest at http://www.wenatex.com.au/seminars_registration.asp.