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Women’s Health Initiative Sleep hyPoxia Effects on Resilience (WHISPER) Study

The WHISPER study examines whether sleep-disordered breathing and the resulting low blood oxygen are associated with increased risks of health events, including heart attack, stroke, heart failure, cancer, and cognitive decline.

Led by Laura Baker, Ph.D., of the Wake Forest School of Medicine, collaborators are based at Harvard University, California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Funded in 2017 by the NHLBI, the specific aims are to evaluate the impact of measured sleep metrics in ~5,000 participants over three years: 1) cardiovascular events; 2) cancer incidence and severity; and 3) cognitive trajectory and cognitive impairment.

The data-collection methods utilized in WHISPER include:

  1. Sleep assessment using wrist-worn devices:
    • WatchPAT: FDA-approved diagnostic device for sleep apnea. Measures peripheral arterial tone (autonomic change due to respiratory disturbances), blood oxygen levels, actigraphy, heart rate, body position, snoring; and
    • Actigraphy: continuous measurements of activity via tri-axial accelerometer obtained for 4 consecutive days; measures total sleep/wake time, number of awakenings, sleep efficiency and fragmentation, and frequency of daytime naps.
  2. Cognitive assessment by telephone using validated protocols and specially trained, experienced interviewers.