Eus van Someren, sleep researcher at Amsterdam UMC, has been studying sleep and insomnia for over 30 years. Van Someren, who is a poor sleeper himself, was interviewed about his work by de Volkskrant, a wellknown Dutch newspaper.

Leading his own research group specialized in sleep at the Dutch Brain institute, van Someren has discovered that poor sleepers, who are twice as likely to develop depression as people who sleep well, face serious mental health risks as well as physical health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Correlation between insomnia and mental health

After years of sleep research, he has found that insomnia is not just bad for physical health, but it can also have a negative impact on emotional functioning. Last year, the endowed professor of Integrative Neurophysiology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam was granted an ERC grant of 2.5 million euros to combine insomnia and anxiety research.

Portrait Eus van Someren

'Not all insomniacs are the same, but with some types of insomnia we see that half will develop a psychiatric disorder'
Eus van Someren
Endowed professor of Integrative Neurophysiology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Downward spiral

It has become increasingly clear in recent years that poor sleep is a major risk factor for all kinds of emotional dysregulation. During a healthy, consolidated REM sleep your brain can peel off the emotional charge of a fraught memory, so to speak. The next day you still know you experienced something emotional, but the strong emotion associated with the event is toned down. That doesn’t happen with people who have restless REM sleep; they actually feel stronger emotions the next day. Van Someren: “This new given provides an exciting entry point to try something pharmacologically. We are investigating if we can make a pill that calms REM sleep.”

Developing an advanced sleeping pill

Van Someren is going to work with an international group of researchers to develop a new type of sleeping pill. We're going to look at different ways to address that restless REM sleep in poor sleepers, so they can get out of the downward spiral of bad sleep and even worse days."

Read the full interview in de Volkskrant (in Dutch) and find out why van Someren let his subjects sing karaoke in one of his studies.