Sleep Disorders and Clinical Trials

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on November 17, 2022
3 min read

A clinical trial, also called a research study, is a research program that tests the effectiveness and safety of various interventions in people with sleep disorders. Clinical trials are meant to find new and improved methods of evaluating or treating a condition. They also can test new ways to help prevent diseases.

Such trials can involve risks, and there is no guarantee regarding a trial's outcome. Clinical trials are conducted in phases and may span several weeks to several years.

Clinical trials for sleep disorders are generally divided into four phases:

  • Phase I clinical trials involve giving a new treatment to a small number of participants to determine its safety. Some phase I trials have a limited number of participants who would not be helped by other known treatments. Other phase I trials are performed in healthy volunteers to determine the safety of a particular treatment.
  • Phase II clinical trials focus on learning whether the new treatment has an effect on a specific condition. Additional information regarding the side effects of the treatment is also obtained. A small number of people are included because of the risks and unknowns involved.
  • Phase III clinical trials compare the new treatment with a placebo or a standard treatment for the sleep disorder. In this phase, researchers determine which study group has fewer side effects and is showing the most improvement.
  • Phase IV clinical trials, also called post-marketing studies, are conducted after a sleep disorder treatment has been approved. The purpose of these trials is to provide an opportunity to learn more details about the treatment and to address questions that may have come up during other phases of trials.

Clinical trial participants are assigned at random (a process similar to flipping a coin) to either the new treatment (treatment group) or the current standard treatment (control group) for their sleep disorder.

Randomization helps to avoid bias (having the study's results affected by human choices or other factors not related to the treatments being tested). When no standard treatment exists for a particular sleep disorder, some studies compare a new treatment with a placebo (a look-alike pill/infusion that contains no active drug). All participants are made aware that they could receive a placebo instead of the active drug.

In a sleep disorder clinical trial, patients receive treatment and researchers observe how the treatment affects them. The patient's progress is closely monitored during the trial. Once the treatment portion of the trial has been completed, researchers may continue to follow patients in order to gather more information about the effects of a treatment.

While clinical trials for sleep disorders have risks for the people who take part, each study also takes steps to protect patients. Only you can decide whether taking part in a clinical trial is worthwhile. The possible benefits and risks should be considered carefully. Talk to your doctor about these risks before making a decision.

You should ask your doctor the following questions if you're considering participating in a clinical trial for sleep disorders:

  • What is the purpose of the study?
  • What has previous research of this treatment shown?
  • What is likely to happen in my case with or without the treatment?
  • Are there standard treatments for this condition?
  • How does this study compare with standard treatment options?


For the most current listing of clinical trials in the field of sleep disorders, consult and conduct a search under the term "sleep disorders."

The National Sleep Foundation Clinical Trials Resource Center also has information about specific clinical trials concerning sleep disorders.