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Research Programme

The Sleep/Wake Research Centre's research programme is fully externally funded and is focused in five main areas:

Occupational Safety and Health

Research in this theme focuses on applying scientific knowledge from our core discipline areas - sleep and circadian science – in shift work and fatigue risk management. Studies are based on a collaborative model that includes all stakeholders (e.g., regulators, professional bodies, companies, workforce representatives). Science provides a neutral common ground for building trust and sharing expertise to resolve practical issues.

Most work to date has been in the transportation sector, particularly commercial aviation, and in hospitals. Senior Centre staff also serve as expert witnesses for fatigue-related safety events and are involved in accident investigation.

(link to project details coming soon)

Epidemiology of Sleep Disorders

In a long-standing collaborative partnership with the Eru Pōmare Māori Health Research Centre and the WellSleep Clinic at the University of Otago (Wellington), the Centre has undertaken a series of epidemiological studies that focus on the sleep health of New Zealander adults. These studies take a Kaupapa Māori perspective, prioritising Māori needs within research and focusing on providing useful outcomes for Māori. All studies also consider the influence of socioeconomic deprivation.  

To date a range indicators of poorer sleep health among Māori have been identified, including higher prevalence of excessive sleepiness, insufficient sleep, insomnia symptoms, and obstructive sleep apnoea. However, the differences in prevalence are related to socio-economic deprivation and other standard risk factors, rather than ethnicity per se. The next phase of this work is to develop evidence-based recommendations for sleep-related health services that will better meet the needs of both Māori and non- Māori, and to develop public health strategies to improve sleep health.

(link to current projects) (link to previous projects)

Healthy Sleep Across the Lifespan

This portfolio of research examines the changes in sleep that are part of development and aging, and how they influence the health, well-being, and social participation of New Zealanders. Areas of interest include the sleep of pregnant women, infants and their parents, primary school children, teenagers, working-age adults, and older people with dementia and their family carers. These are community-based studies with a wide range of collaborative partners. The focus is on identifying factors that affect sleep health at different ages and stages of life, and developing and implementing strategies to improve sleep.

(link to project details coming soon)

Basic Sleep and Circadian Science

This area of work is centred on our 3-bed time isolation facility (soon to be upgraded). Areas of particular interest include the duration and time course of sleep inertia (being awake but not fully functional) after short naps, and the regulation of sleep timing by the circadian body clock in morning-types and evening-types.  We also collaborate internationally in studies using facilities that are unavailable in New Zealand, for example examining the effect of sleep at aircraft cabin pressure altitudes in hypobaric chambers in the USA and Canada, and in large scale simulation studies of the effects of pilot fatigue on crew performance on the flight deck.

(link to project details coming soon)

Arts/Science Collaboration

Philippa Gander and Sam Trubridge have launched a number of projects that challenge the boundaries of the arts/science divide by exploring the themes of sleeping and waking in an ongoing dialogue between sleep science and the performing arts. This work has attracted national and international funding and conference invitations, reflecting growing interest in the innovative potential of the ‘intersection’ between disparate disciplines.


Major works include 'Sleep/Wake Theatre', which was critically acclaimed in the Wellington Fringe Festival (2008) and the Auckland Festival of the Arts (2009), and 'The Waking Incubator', an intensive 8-day workshop with 6 artists and 5 scientists (Wellington 2010). The 'Waking Incubator’ Exhibition has been presented at the ArtSci Satellite of the XXXIV Meeting of the Brazilian Society of Neuroscience and Behaviour in Caxambu (2010) and together with a published catalogue, at the World Sleep Congress in Kyoto (2011).

 (link to project details coming soon)

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