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2023 Alzheimer's Association Research Grant (AARG)

Investigating the Mechanism of a Music-based Intervention for Sleep

Can listening to music reduce levels of stress and improve sleep in individuals living with dementia and their caregivers?

Diana Petrovsky, Ph.D.
Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences
Newark, NJ - United States


Insomnia, or problems falling and staying asleep, is the most common sleep symptom among individuals living with dementia. Not only does insomnia result in disruptions of daily tasks and mood for both the individual living with dementia and caregivers, it is also connected to more rapidly progressing dementia symptoms and an increased likelihood of hospitalization. 

Current methods of combatting insomnia mainly fall under two main categories: drugs and therapy. Each has significant limitations in individuals living with dementia. Drugs for insomnia increase the likelihood of falls, accidents, and other negative side effects. Therapy is not as widely available as drugs due to a lack of trained therapists and individuals with dementia can have difficulties following therapy instructions. Due to this lack of accessible and safe treatments for insomnia in the dementia community, Dr. Darina Petrovsky aims to use music to help lessen the symptoms of insomnia. 

Dr. Petrovsky proposes the use of a new mobile app: Calming Music Personalized for Sleep Enhancement in PeRsons living with Dementia (CoMPoSER). The app will help to improve sleep by improving relaxation and creating a nightly routine. Dr. Petrovsky is also including caregivers in this study as well, as sleep issues also impact them.

Research Plan

Dr. Petrovsky and colleagues will monitor sleep patterns using a smart watch monitor (a non-invasive method of recording human sleep-wake cycles) as well as asking caregivers to keep a journal of sleep disruptions over the course of the study. The researchers will also collect saliva samples from the individuals after sleep in order to measure levels of a stress hormone, cortisol, which is an easily measurable marker of general stress. They will compare sleep habits and stress between a group using the CoMPoSER app and one following only a list of general tips to avoid insomnia.


Results from this project could help to develop accessible ways to cope with insomnia in both individuals living with dementia and their caregivers. Additionally, this project will try to establish stress reduction as the means by which sleep is improved in these individuals. Overall, this study strives to alleviate a significant problem for individuals living with dementia.

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