Take Charge

Open Your Eyes and Relax

October 10, 2019

VR Sleep Study Dr. Brian D. Gonzalez wears a Virtual Reality (VR) headset. Gonzalez has developed a VR app to help patients relax at bedtime and has launched a pilot study testing the app.

By Kim Polacek

Virtual Reality (VR) has changed our view on the world. The headsets can be used to play games, take a tour of a faraway destination or even help you visualize a medical procedure. Now, Moffitt Cancer Center is hoping VR can help improve our patients sleep.

Dr. Brian Gonzalez, assistant member of the Health Outcomes & Behavior Program.

Dr. Brian D. Gonzalez, assistant member of the Health Outcomes & Behavior Program, has developed a VR app to help patients relax at bedtime. The app places the user in peaceful surroundings like the beach or near a babbling brook.  With soothing sounds and comforting narration, the patient can practice relaxation techniques to use once they go to bed.

“We know sleep is important for the body to recover and heal. But for cancer patients who have been admitted to the hospital for a long time or suffered severe side effects from therapy, sleep may not always come easily. Or they have trouble sleeping long enough for it to really be restorative,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez has launched a pilot study testing his app among patients who have received stem cell transplants at Moffitt. He says those patients spend a long period of time admitted to the hospital and often have sleep issues once returning home. Participants will be sent home with a VR headset and a health tracker-style wrist band that will record their sleep activity and send data to Moffitt remotely.

“Our hope is to expand our study of this VR app to include more patients at Moffitt, maybe providing them to patients who are spending long periods of time in our Infusion Center,” said Gonzalez.