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Clinical Trials

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is strongly committed to supporting research aimed at preventing and treating heart, lung, and blood diseases and conditions and sleep disorders.

NHLBI-supported research has led to many advances in medical knowledge and care. For example, this research has uncovered some of the causes of various sleep disorders and ways to diagnose and treat them.

The NHLBI continues to support research to learn more about sleep and sleep disorders. For example, the NHLBI’s Sleep Heart Health Study showed that moderate to severe sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of stroke and death in middle-aged adults, especially men. Current NHLBI studies are exploring:

  • How obesity and sleep apnea affect inflammation and heart disease
  • Whether CPAP treatment affects how the body uses glucose (sugar)
  • New behavioral programs and methods to help patients adhere to CPAP treatment

In November 2011, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released its "2011 NIH Sleep Disorders Research Plan." The plan expands upon previous and current research programs and identifies new research opportunities.

The NHLBI's National Center on Sleep Disorders Research coordinates this research across the NIH and other Federal agencies. The research focuses on sleep and the body's natural 24-hour cycle, the role of genes and the environment on sleep health, and ways to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of sleep disorders.

Much of this research depends on the willingness of volunteers to take part in clinical trials. Clinical trials test new ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat various diseases, conditions, and health problems.

For example, new treatments for a disease or condition (such as medicines, medical devices, surgeries, or procedures) are tested in volunteers who have the illness. Testing shows whether a treatment is safe and effective in humans before it is made available for widespread use.

By taking part in a clinical trial, you may gain access to new treatments before they're widely available. You also will have the support of a team of health care providers, who will likely monitor your health closely. Even if you don't directly benefit from the results of a clinical trial, the information gathered can help others and add to scientific knowledge.

If you volunteer for a clinical trial, the research will be explained to you in detail. You'll learn about treatments and tests you may receive, and the benefits and risks they may pose. You'll also be given a chance to ask questions about the research. This process is called informed consent.

If you agree to take part in the trial, you'll be asked to sign an informed consent form. This form is not a contract. You have the right to withdraw from a study at any time, for any reason. Also, you have the right to learn about new risks or findings that emerge during the trial.

For more information about clinical trials related to sleep apnea, talk with your doctor. You also can visit the following Web sites to learn more about clinical research and to search for clinical trials:

For more information about clinical trials for children, visit the NHLBI's Children and Clinical Studies Web page.

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July 10, 2012