Sleep is a fundamental process controlled by the brain and is essential for human life. Impaired sleep can adversely affect a variety of physiological systems and disease processes. Obstructive sleep apnoea is a common breathing disorder characterised by repetitive collapse of the upper airway during sleep, leading to reduced oxygen levels and disrupted sleep. Untreated sleep apnoea is associated with major co-morbidities, including neurocognitive impairment and increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
In addition to more broad sleep physiology interests, one of the primary goals of our sleep research program is to investigate the multiple pathogenic causes of sleep apnoea with a view towards developing novel, targeted therapeutic approaches for individual patients. We have a comprehensive basic sciences and translational research program in which we employ a variety of neurophysiological techniques to study human upper airway muscle activity, function and airway mechanics during wakefulness and sleep.
Click here to access Dr Danny Eckert's research papers:
Approximately 5% of adults report using sleeping pills to promote sleep with higher rates in the elderly. We are conducting several studies in healthy individuals and patients with sleep apnoea to examine the effects of common sleeping pills on the upper airway muscles and breathing during sleep.
The use of opioid medications in our community is quite common and can cause serious breathing problems, particularly during sleep. The goal of this project is to investigate the effects of opioids on upper airway muscle activity, respiratory control, and breathing during sleep in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea.
There are important protective reflexes in the human upper airway that help keep the airway open when suction pressures (as occurs in sleep apnoea) are present. We are conducting research to understand how these important reflexes in the upper airway including the tongue and surrounding muscles function to gain insight into the causes of obstructive sleep apnoea.
While continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is highly effective in treating sleep apnoea (See: What is obstructive sleep apnoea), approximately 50% of patients are intolerant or non-adherent. Responses to alternative therapies are variable and are currently difficult to predict.
Danny Eckert has been actively involved in human sleep and respiratory physiology research since 2001. In 2006, he completed his PhD at the University of Adelaide, based at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health, investigating the effects of low oxygen levels on protective respiratory reflexes and sensory processing in humans during wakefulness and sleep. He was subsequently awarded the Australasian Sleep Association Helen Bearpark Memorial Scholarship and the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand Allen and Hanburys Respiratory Research Fellowship, followed by a NHMRC overseas Biomedical Fellowship to pursue postdoctoral studies.
After three years of postdoctoral training at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, he was promoted to Faculty; first to Instructor in Medicine in 2009, and subsequently to Assistant Professor in 2011. After a highly productive five and a half years in the United States, Danny has returned to Australia to continue his sleep and respiratory physiology research at NeuRA.