George Mason University

News at Mason

Graduation profile: This senior didn’t sleep through his time at Mason

May 17, 2018   /   by Damian Cristodero

Matthew Eiman, neuroscience, Honors College, studies the relationship between sleep efficiency and cognitive performance. Photo by Evan Cantwell.

For Matt Eiman, George Mason University offered endless possibilities and opportunities.

The senior neuroscience major said he felt that from his first visit to the Fairfax Campus as a high school senior through his four years at the university.

Perhaps that was because Eiman was so willing to make the most of his George Mason experience.

As a freshman from Altoona, Pennsylvania, Eiman wanted to make friends, so he joined the Ultimate Frisbee club team, which he captained his junior year. Intent on doing meaningful research, he looked for faculty whose interests aligned with his own.

“Mason has great faculty and great people who really care about the students,” Eiman said. “If you’re willing to reach out and make your way yourself, they will help you.”

“Matt is really great,” said associate professor of global community and health Ali Weinstein, director of Mason’s Center for the Study of Chronic Illness and Disability. “He does a nice job of picking research questions that have applicability to the real world. He wants to be a doctor, so when he looks at research he looks at it through the lens of, how does this tell us what we didn’t know before?”

Eiman, a member of the Honors College, got some of those answers through the research he did with Weinstein, which was supported by Mason’s Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities and Research (OSCAR). Specifically, when it comes to getting enough rest, it is how well one sleeps that is most important, not how long.

Participants in the study wore to bed a FitBit-like device called an actigraph to bed, which monitored their sleep-wake patterns. Those who slept more efficiently were better able to perform cognitive tasks and recover from physical challenges, Eiman said.

“The implication is the more efficiently you sleep, the better your mental ability,” he said. “And with cardiovascular recovery, there is literature out there that suggests if your heart rate can’t recover well after physical exercise, it puts you at a higher risk of cardiovascular mortality and morbidity.”

Eiman will continue his sleep research in a yearlong post-baccalaureate program at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in the National Institutes of Health. Working with fruit flies, he will explore how sleep is affected by genetics and environmental changes, which can have implications in how people with sleep disorders can be treated.

“Fruit flies are kind of cool because they exhibit a similar sleep pattern as humans,” Eiman said. “And a lot of their genes have analogs to humans.”

Though his research will continue, Eiman’s Ultimate Frisbee playing days, at least at Mason, are over.

“I got involved because I saw them at a table at one of the recruitment events,” Eiman said. “It was an awesome experience. I made a ton of friends, it kept me in shape and I got to travel.”

It was worth it, even though the team’s season ended with a disappointing finish at this year’s Atlantic Coast Regional Championship.

“We faced a lot of adversity during the year and didn’t crack the top half of the region, but we certainly enjoyed the journey,” Eiman said.

Perhaps they needed a bit more efficient sleep.

Topics: Graduation