Medical Research has been taking place at Halley for a good many years now. Professor Josephine Arendt and Doctor Linda Morgan from the University of Guildford are the principal organisers.
At present the Medical Research here incorporates two main parts. The First has been ongoing for some years now and looks closely at the effects of Night Shift on our bodies. Volunteers participate in the study during their weeks of Night watch on Base. Urine is sampled regularly to monitor a metabolite of the hormone Melatonin, which plays an important role in our sleep-wake cycle. Fasting blood samples are taken to monitor plasma levels of Cholesterol, Fatty Acids, Glucose and Insulin. Participants also keep sleep diaries, record everything they eat and drink, and undergo some Ultraviolet light therapy. From this study we hope to gain more knowledge about the effects of shift work on people’s health.
This year we have started an exciting new project. Eight of us are continuously wearing wristwatch sized light and motion sensors known as “Actiwatches”.These neat little gadgets incorporate both an accelerometer and a light meter. They continuously sample an individual’s activity and light exposure at two minutely intervals then store the data. Using nocturnal movement as a marker, we are able to objectively estimate sleep quality and compare it with the subject’s sleep diaries and quality of sleep scores. This data enables us to look more closely at the sleep wake cycle.
From the actiwatches we are also able to monitor how much light an individual is exposed to throughout the whole 24 hour period. This is particularly relevant during the winter at Halley when we rely solely on artificial light for a period of some months. This data will help in our understanding of the effects of light on the human body clock and it’s implications in coping with shift work.
The actogram shows activity levels in black, and light exposure in yellow.