"It is important to me that my project helps patients directly"

Can a weighted blanket help people with depression sleep better? This was investigated by Sanne Toft Kristiansen in her industrial PhD, which was carried out in collaboration with the Danish company Protac A/S. Get her story in the next installment of our series on external collaboration at Health.

While working as a psychiatric nurse, Sanne Toft Kristiansen made an observation. Many of the patients she saw on her night shifts requested a specific weighted blanket to sleep with. This was true across the patients' varying diagnoses and reasons for admission. They themselves felt that the blanket helped them to sleep better.

Here, Sanne Toft Kristiansen's curiosity was piqued. She knew that the weighted blanket was developed by the Danish manufacturer Protac A/S, which was founded by a group of occupational therapists with specific experience from psychiatry. But there was not much evidence to be found as to whether the blanket actually had a measurable effect.

Wrote the PhD protocol on maternity leave

The only study Sanne Toft Kristiansen could find was conducted on children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD. The study showed that this patient group actually fell asleep faster and had fewer night-time awakenings when sleeping with the weighted blanket. This motivated Sanne Toft Kristiansen to investigate whether a similar effect could be found in depressed people —  a group, which her professional interest had circled for several years.

If that were the case, she believed that the potential could be extremely large, as sleep problems are closely connected to depression in the vast majority of patients.

In fact, Sanne Toft Kristiansen was so motivated that she wrote a draft of a PhD protocol while she was on maternity leave. She quickly found support for the project from both a professor of psychiatry, a lecturer in nursing – and not least from the company itself, which quickly declared itself ready to collaborate on an industrial PhD project.

Watch the video where Sanne Toft Kristiansen talks about her experience writing the industrial PhD.

Considering writing an industrial PhD?

If you yourself are thinking about writing an industrial PhD and starting a research project with a private company or another type of external collaboration, then contact AU's Technology Transfer Office (TTO).

TTO can help you with everything from collaboration contracts to patenting. Learn more on TTO's website.


PhD Sanne Toft Kristiansen
Aarhus University, Deptartment of Clinicl Medicine
Aarhus University Hospital, Department of Affective Disorders
Telefon: (+45) 92 43 79 42
Mail: sannkris@rm.dk