AHSS 3: Home-based music listening to improve sleep for carers of people living with dementia

Applications have now closed for our 2021/2 Vice Chancellor's PhD Scholarships. We will contact applicants in due course.

Faculty: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Supervisors: Prof Jörg Fachner, Dr Alex Street, Dr Dean D’Souza and Prof Nigel Osbourne

Interview date: 24 May 2021

The majority of dementia care is delivered in the home by spouse, partner or other relative. This can have a significant negative effect on carers’ health and wellbeing, disrupting sleep regulation and quality (Gao et al, 2019).

Music listening has been shown in meta-studies to facilitate blood pressure recovery, reduce anxiety and aid psychophysiological recovery from stress. Listening to relaxing music can reduce arousal and improve objective and subjective sleep parameters (Cordi et al, 2019). It is now possible for music streaming and mobile application technologies to converge and provide adjunct music-based therapy for affective disorders (Schriewer and Bulaj, 2016).

X-System is an innovative computational approach to the automatic categorisation of music by its effects on heart rate and modulation of arousal levels (Sice et al, 2020), mood, bodily movement and autonomic and endocrine responses. Decreasing arousal using participant selected playlists of relaxing music, streamed from X-System and linked to each participant’s heart rate data, may help to gradually decrease arousal and help to induce sleep and improve sleep quality.

The aim of this study is to measure the effect on sleep regulation, sleep quality and quality of life in dementia carers, of listening to preferred-relaxing music playlists in their home when preparing for sleep.

This PhD programme in ARU’s Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research (CIMTR) will form a nested study within CIMTR’s RadioMe project. Approximately ten carers of participants recruited into RadioMe will be invited. A within subject case series design, informed through Patient Carer and Public Involvement (PCPI) will be conducted.

X-System music listening will be self-delivered via a tablet or smartphone and Bluetooth headphones or speaker for up to 30 minutes at a time when the participant is in bed and preparing for sleep. A heart rate monitor will be continuously worn by the carers during the intervention, which will control the music delivery. As the heart rate reduces, the X-System will select music that will continue to reduce it towards sleep state.

The researcher will form a PCPI advisory group at study setup stage and meet with other carer support groups throughout the study. This will inform on the design, including: study document design, music listening period (weeks), comfort/preferences for music playback, EEG and ECG data collection, training materials for carers, dissemination.

This project aligns with CIMTRs Healthy Ageing and Neuroscience priority areas, and will adapt to two research projects at CIMTR that are developing on impact: RadioMe and Homeside. The EPSRC funded project RadioMe targets a technological development that will support PwDs in early stages being able to live independently without professional carers. Homeside is an international JNPD funded project researching ways to train and empower carers (next of kin, family members living with PwD) to deliver indirect music therapy, i.e. the carers are trained and supervised by professional music therapists to deliver tailored interventions.

Funding notes

This successful applicant for this project will receive a Vice Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship which covers Home tuition fees and provides a UKRI equivalent minimum annual stipend for three years. For 2021/2 this will be £15,609 per year. The award is subject to the successful candidate meeting the scholarship terms and conditions. Please note that the University asserts the right to claim any intellectual property generated by research it funds.

Download the full terms and conditions.