Sleep and circadian neuroscience

Through our lab-based studies, we drill down to the fundamental mechanisms that control sleep and alertness, and their interactions with mood, cognition, and mental and physical health.

We use a suite of techniques including full polysomnography and body clock assessments, to understand the sleep and circadian systems of healthy people of all ages. We also have a specific focus on shift workers, people with sleep disorders, and those with disorders such as depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injury that are frequently associated with sleep disorders.

We are investigating the biological basis of individual susceptibility to sleep and circadian disorders. For example, how changes in sensitivity to evening light may lead to Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPD), which is characterised by difficulty getting to sleep at night and waking for work or school.

Other studies are investigating how men and women respond differently to light and melatonin, important cues for setting the body clock. Our findings could explain why women tend to tolerate shift work less well than men.

We are also working to better understand how sleep deprivation affects brain function and performance, using functional MRI to monitor the ebb and flow of brain activity, and cognitive testing to assess memory, language, problem-solving abilities, and attention.

CASE STUDY: Developing better treatments for Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder

(Link to DSPD case study page)