Study evaluates immersive virtual reality as a sleep aid for teens

August 25, 2020

DARIEN, IL - While teens are encouraged to turn off electronics before bedtime, a new study suggests that visiting a virtual environment may benefit their sleep health. Researchers evaluated the efficacy of a novel intervention based on virtual reality and slow breathing to promote bedtime relaxation and sleep in high school students.

"Our results indicate that the use of immersive virtual reality and slow breathing/relaxation techniques can help promote bedtime relaxation and improve overall sleep quality in adolescents with good sleep and in those with insomnia symptoms," said lead author Dr. Dilara Yuksel, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Health Sciences at SRI International in Menlo Park, California. "While our findings are still preliminary, they suggest the potential of being able to apply immersive virtual reality and slow breathing/relaxation techniques to facilitate sleep, which could be an effective approach in problem sleepers."

The study involved 29 high school students between the ages of 16 and 18 years, 10 of whom had sleep difficulties. The participants' sleep was assessed by polysomnography for two nights. On the baseline night, they engaged in 20 minutes of quiet activities, such as reading a book, before bedtime. On the intervention night, they performed 20 minutes of slow breathing while experiencing a relaxing, immersive, virtual reality environment.

Yuksel added that the results are especially important in identifying ways to treat teenage insomnia and other sleep disturbances that are risk factors for other physical and mental disorders such as depression.

"The investigation and treatment of insomnia disorders is of great interest to the general public, with particularly inexpensive and simple methods available that can be performed at home and are promising for long-term, large-scale use," she said.

The research abstract was published recently in an
Sleep and will be presented as a poster Aug. 28-30 and as an oral presentation Sunday, Aug. 30, during -end-
The study was conducted by the Human Sleep Research Program, SRI International (Director: Dr. Fiona C. Baker), a center of expertise in adolescent sleep and brain research. It was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute under the award number R01HL139652 (to Dr. Massimiliano de Zambotti). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

For a copy of the abstract, "The Use of Immersive Virtual Reality and Slow Breathing to Enhance Relaxation and Sleep in Adolescents," or to arrange an interview with the study author or an AASM spokesperson, please contact AASM Communications Coordinator Corinne Lederhouse at 630-737-9700, ext. 9366, or

About the American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Established in 1975, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) is advancing sleep care and enhancing sleep health to improve lives. The AASM has a combined membership of 11,000 accredited member sleep centers and individual members, including physicians, scientists and other health care professionals (

About the Sleep Research Society

The Sleep Research Society (SRS) is a professional membership society that advances sleep and circadian science. The SRS provides forums for the exchange of information, establishes and maintains standards of reporting and classifies data in the field of sleep research, and collaborates with other organizations to foster scientific investigation on sleep and its disorders. The SRS also publishes the peer-reviewed, scientific journals Sleep and Sleep Advances (
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