Sleep disorders


Understanding how to correct interrupted sleep patterns


About Our Research

Sedatives and Sleep Apnoea

Approximately 5% of adults report using sleeping pills to promote sleep with higher rates in the elderly. We are conducting several NHMRC-funded 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. While some sleeping pills may make sleep apnoea worse, others may actually be beneficial for certain patients. We are undertaking mechanistic upper airway physiology and clinical studies to provide insight into these seemingly paradoxical effects.

Effect of Morphine on Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

The use of opioid medications in our community is quite common and can cause serious breathing problems, particularly during sleep. The goal of this NHMRC-funded 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. These studies will help us to understand reasons why breathing responses to opioids vary between individuals and which sleep apnoea patients are most at risk of developing breathing complications during sleep.

Upper-Airway Reflexes and Muscle Control

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.

Defining the Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea to Develop Novel Therapies

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. We are undertaking research using a variety of novel physiological approaches to understand the key causes of sleep apnoea on a per patient basis. Using this approach our goals are to develop simple accurate tools to identify the varying causes of sleep apnoea, develop targeted novel therapies for individual patients, and to determine who is most likely to respond to existing non-CPAP therapies.

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