Sleep is the single most important neurobehavioural experience in our lives. The average person spends more than a third of their life asleep. While scientists do not yet fully understand all of the reasons why we sleep, many important things happen during sleep. Sleep is an active restorative state, and the body’s chance to repair and replace all of the molecules used up during the day. In addition, sleep plays vital roles in immune function, and in helping to consolidate memories and tasks that have been learned throughout the day.
Research in this program
Turning Point is actively involved in research, treatment, and education around sleep issues. This is important given that many commonly used drugs such as alcohol, caffeine, cannabis, and prescription medications affect sleep. Some current research projects which have a focus on sleep include:
Adolescent and drug and alcohol use
Working with groups both nationally and internationally to examine how alcohol and drug use in adolescence affects sleep, we found that risky drinkers commonly reported using alcohol to help them sleep, but as a consequence their sleep issues were exacerbated. We have also found that earlier use of alcohol and cannabis by adolescents as young as 12 was associated with later sleep problems when they were 18 years of age.
Poor sleep is linked to both poor physical and mental health, and can play a role in contributing to acute crisis events. Turning Point researchers have demonstrated that sleep is an important marker in suicide ideation and attempt ambulance presentations, and are interested in investigating further how sleep is involved in acute crises.
We work closely with clinicians at Box Hill Hospital and collaborators at Monash University to understand barriers to a good night’s sleep in GP and hospital settings. We know how important sleep is when one is recovering, though many things interrupt sleep in these settings. By understanding these we hope to promote faster recovery for those in hospital, and reduce future re-admissions.
Detox and withdrawal
Understanding how sleep changes during alcohol and drug detox and withdrawal is important. Poor sleep is a major concern in many of our clients, and by better understanding which components of sleep are disturbed, we hope to aid their recovery.
Shift, work and play!
We live in a world that operates 24/7. More than 20% of our workforces are shift workers, who often struggle with not only sleep, but also other healthy behaviours such as diet and exercise. We are actively engaged in understanding how shift workers cope with their schedules, including their use of drugs and how these impacts on their health and productivity at work. We have worked with shift workers both here in Australia and in the United States with our partners in Boston.
What is needed / Next Steps
We are passionate about understanding and learning more about sleep, particularly in how different drugs affect sleep, and how people use alcohol and other drugs to aid their sleep, or to help them remain alert. You can get more information about some of these from the following ‘Sleep Talk’ podcast, given by Dr Rowan Ogeil, on the impact of alcohol and sleep. We run webinars and workshops on understanding sleep throughout the year, so keep an eye out on our upcoming events.