University of Eastern Finland to coordinate a €15M Horizon 2020 research project for sleep apnoea

02 Mar 2021 | Network Updates | Update from University of Eastern Finland
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Sleep Revolution is a multidisciplinary and international research and development project aimed at reforming the diagnostics and treatment of sleep apnoea. The European Commission recently granted the project almost 15 million euros of funding from the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing.

The objective of the project is to revolutionise research, diagnosis, and treatment practices of sleep apnoea. To achieve this goal, the project will develop methods based on machine learning and artificial intelligence to assess the severity of, and the need for treatment in, sleep apnoea. A total of 37 research institutes, hospitals, and companies will participate in the project. The ultimate objective of the project is to draw up new international guidelines for the diagnostics of sleep apnoea in collaboration with the European Sleep Research Society and national sleep research societies.

“It is a great honour to bring together Europe’s leading experts in sleep research and to make use of the resources available in sleep research centres in an unprecedented way. By making use of multidisciplinary expertise and modern information technology methods, our objective is to support diagnostics and personalised treatment plans through increasingly comprehensive and accurate use of sleep recording data,” Assistant Professor Erna Sif Arnardóttir, Director of Reykjavik University Sleep Institute, and the Sleep Revolution project, says.

“This is a great opportunity to update the diagnostics of sleep apnoea for the new decade. Over the past twenty years, we have witnessed immense development in measurement sensors and computing capacity, enabling the development of highly diverse automated analysis methods, and the replacement of manual analysis of sleep recordings,” Senior Researcher Timo Leppänen says. He is one of the leaders of the Sleep Technology and Analytics Group ( at the Department of Applied Physics, and also the accountable leader of the Horizon 2020 project at the University of Eastern Finland.

Rector of the University of Eastern Finland, Professor Jukka Mönkkönen, agrees with the project leaders: “This is a significant and important project. It is great that the University of Eastern Finland plays such an important role in this project. We look forward to the results and their implementation into clinical practice.”

Sleep apnoea has been associated with many public health problems, such as cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes, and daytime symptoms that disturb normal life. These symptoms include significant daytime sleepiness and impaired vigilance, leading to both traffic and occupational accidents, and sick leaves. According to the latest epidemiological estimates, nearly one billion people worldwide suffer from sleep apnoea, with approximately 1.5 million in Finland. However, the current methods for diagnosing sleep apnoea and the related clinical interpretations are outdated, expensive, and extremely time-consuming. Furthermore, the abundant data generated by the current methods is underutilised. For these reasons, a significant proportion of patients with sleep apnoea remain without a diagnosis, or the diagnosis and subsequent treatment may be non-optimal.

“By simplifying measurement technology and applying intelligent analysis methods, the diagnostics of sleep apnoea can be significantly enhanced. Although this increases the number of patients to be treated, the overall costs caused by the disease are expected to decrease, especially due to a reduced risk of comorbidities,” Professor Reijo Sund from the Faculty of Health Sciences says. Professor Sund is responsible for economic and epidemiological analyses carried out in the project.

“Of course, an increase in the number of patients will pose challenges to health care and its resources. It is therefore important that the project also takes into account therapeutic perspectives and explores the cost-effectiveness of the entire chain of examinations and care,” Professor Juha Töyräs says. He is the leader of the work package focusing on data mining, and the newly appointed Director of Research and Innovation at Kuopio University Hospital (from 1 April 2021 onwards).

The project also involves the creation of a data-rich patient database. The database will contain over 30,000 sleep recordings collected in Icelandic, Finnish, and other European hospitals and research centres. During the project, data will also be collected with various sleep questionnaires and through consumer products, such as smartwatches. The platform will be used for storing, processing, and sharing data and research results. The platform will be used on a Europe-wide scale for the needs of clinical work and research.

For further information, please contact:

Senior Researcher Timo Leppänen, timo.leppanen (a), tel. +358 44 532 6362

Senior Researcher Sami Myllymaa, sami.myllymaa (a), tel. +358 40 557 2499

Professor Reijo Sund, reijo.sund (a), tel. +358 50 305 4126

This article was first published on 1 March by University of Eastern Finland.

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