SMU The National Sleep Research Resource Towards Sleep Data Commons Discussion

Question Description

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Research on sleep deprivation is important. After all, it would be good to know just what are the best ways to help people cope in situations when they are sleep deprived to optimize their functioning. You can imagine how this research is of interest to military agencies, disaster relief organizations, health care, law enforcement agencies, etc.

However, think about some of the practical and ethical issues that come up with conducting research on sleep deprivation (beyond 1-2 days, for example). Who would volunteer to take part in such studies? Who would want to be without sleep for 3-6 days (in exchange for money)? Who would not? Do you think the people who would volunteer to take part in experiments on longer-term sleep deprivation are different from those who would never participate? How…in which ways? Would those differences affects researchers’ abilities to generalize the results of their research to the broader population?

What about the fact that we don’t have good data on the long-term consequences for physical and mental health? What obligations do you think researchers have to research participants when the study is completed? For example, imagine that after a hypothetical five-year longitudinal experiment the researchers discover that participants in the sleep deprivation condition were more likely to develop a serious medical condition X. What should researchers be obligated to do (if anything) for those participants? What are the sorts of issues that researchers would need to think about and address in order to do this type of research? I want you to think about the ethical and practical issues that arise in conducting this type of research. Think also about our ability to generalize the results of sleep studies to the broader population.




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