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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Ten siblings. One third live (or have passed away) with dementia.

The scourge of dementia runs deep in Lorna Clement's family. Of the eleven children her dear parents raised, four live (or have passed away) with complications of the disease. Her mother also died of Alzheimer's disease, bringing the family total to five. This is the mystery of dementia - One family, with two very different ageing outcomes. You will have read that lifestyle is an important factor in reducing the risk of dementia. We also know diet is a key factor, and an aspect that Dr Ruth Peter's is exploring at NeuRA. Along with leading teams delivering high profile evidence synthesis work in the area of dementia risk reduction, Dr Peters has a particular interest in hypertension (that is, high blood pressure) and in the treatment of hypertension in older adults. “We have known for a while that treating high blood pressure reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, but it is becoming clearer that controlling blood pressure may also help to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Now we need to know what the best blood pressure is to protect brain health.” You are invited to read more about Lorna's story and Dr Peter's work, by clicking 'Read the full story' below. Please support dementia research at NeuRA Will you consider a gift today to help Dr Peter's unlock the secrets of healthy ageing and reduce the risk of dementia? Research into ageing and dementia at NeuRA will arm doctors and other medical professionals with the tools they need to help prevent dementia in our communities. Thank you for your support.