Published: 03 March 2020

Dr Mermikides' translation of sleep data into sound

To celebrate World Sleep Day 2020, the Department of Music and Media would like to highlight the fascinating work of Dr Milton Mermikides, Reader in Music, MMus Programme Director and Deputy Director of the International Guitar Research Centre.


Milton is currently working on a project entitled ‘Sound Asleep’, which is a collaboration between Milton and eminent sleep scientists, including:

  • Professor Debra Skene (University of Surrey)
  • Professor Paul Krause (University of Surrey)
  • Professor Vladyslav Vyazovskiy (University of Oxford)
  • Doctor Renata Riha (University of Edinburgh)
  • Professor Morten Kringelbach (University of Oxford).

The project works on developing techniques that translate sleep data into musical compositions and aims to reveal the nature of sleep and the hidden lives that we all share. Through the translation of sleep data into sound, phenomena such as the disruption of sleep in the visually impaired, sleep apnoea and the transitions in brainwave activity between sleep states, are captured and translated to create a euphonious and aesthetic appreciation of this information.

The project is being disseminated to members of the sleep science community, the visually impaired, people with sleep disorders, and many other wider communities, allowing us all to experience this vital part of our lives.

Milton has gone on to present his research at:

  • The prestigious 2014 European Sleep Research Society conference in Tallinn, Estonia
  • The 2016 British Sleep Society conference at the Sage Gateshead
  • TedX Groningen 2016
  • The Noordezoon Music Festival 2017
  • The National Film and Theatre School, in the form of a documentary 2018
  • A public keynote at the Barbican for the Royal Physiological Society 2019
  • A feature on BBC Radio 3 Inside Science 2019
  • An exhibition at the Design Museum, London 2019
  • A keynote at the Royal Society of Medicine 2020
  • Ableton Loop Conference 2020.

Notably, earlier this month on Wednesday 19 February 2020, BBC Scotland came to the University of Surrey to interview Milton and Debra for a radio show and will be visiting again soon to film a feature for BBC Scotland News.

Regarding the project, Dr Mermikides said: “Music has significant and unique potential in the representation of scientific data and concepts. Sleep – with its inherent rhythms, cycles, dissonances, temporal binding and hidden patterns – is a particularly exciting field for musical representation and this project has been enormously illuminating for all the collaborators creating simultaneously novel and illuminating data representations, and compositional techniques.”

Congratulations to Dr Mermikides for his ground-breaking research in this field. We look forward to hearing more about his findings in the future.

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