A big congratulations to the Centre’s Director of Athlete Sleep Services, Jonathan Charest, on his first Ph.D. publication! Jonathan and his research team were investigating the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) treatment on sleep in student-athletes. Having been an athlete himself, Jonathan is particularly invested in the impact of sleep on performance and recovery. Although there are numerous studies that provide evidence of the role sleep plays in the recovery of high-performance athletes, there is limited literature on sleep in college-level elite athletes. Student-athletes face unique challenges due to the combination of academic demands and their athletic commitments, putting them at a greater risk of having sleep issues. Jonathan and his team sought to explore a non-pharmacological alternative to improve the quantity and quality of sleep in student-athletes.
tDTS is a non-pharmacological, non-invasive and painless brain stimulation treatment that uses direct electrical currents to stimulate specific parts of the brain. For the study, which involved 30 healthy student-athletes (15 females and 15 males), sleep was assessed with four different questionnaires – The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), The Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) and Athlete Sleep Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ) – and with five nights of polysomnography. The tDTS and sham treatments were applied for two consecutive nights, for 20 minutes, 90 minutes prior to bedtime.
The results of the study found that the total sleep time (TST) of the experimental group was extended by an average of 13 minutes per night, compared with the placebo group. Additionally, regarding the questionnaires, data analyses showed improvement on the PSQI, ISI and ASSQ scores after tDCS.
Although further research is still needed, “with the emergence of a new clinical tool such as the ASSQ and the impact that two consecutive nights of tDCS had on the scores, tDCS could be considered as a new prospective clinical tool to which clinicians should pay attention and investigate“ says Jonathan.
Jonathan Charest joined the Centre for Sleep & Human Performance team in September of this year.