A new era dawns for Australian Institute for Sleep Health

(Southern Health News, April 2019)

The internationally-recognised centre of excellence in sleep health research, teaching and training – the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health (AISH) – has moved to new facilities adjacent to the Flinders Medical Centre.

Located at Sir Mark Oliphant Building in Laffer Drive, Bedford Park, the sleep research facility includes 900sqm of new work and laboratory space and a fully configurable six-bedroom, acoustically treated sleep laboratory. The laboratory is fitted with the latest technology to measure respiratory and brain function, test for the impacts of environmental noise on sleep, and conduct live-in sleep deprivation and circadian (sleep/wake) experiments.

There is also space to accommodate 40 research staff and clinic rooms for epidemiological and clinical research.

“We are extremely proud of our new facilities: the combination of such cutting edge laboratories, the latest technology and new work spaces are proving to be excellent conduits for our world-class teaching and for furthering our research in respiratory and non-respiratory sleep disorders,” said President and Vice-Chancellor of Flinders University, Professor Colin J Stirling. The relocation of AISH was supported by a $4 million investment from Flinders University.

The facility also includes the Nic Antic Laboratory at Flinders University.

Professor Antic began work at AISH in 2002 and was appointed Clinical Director of the sleep service in 2005. Over the next decade he established a national and international reputation for his clinical research, teaching and mentorship of students and trainees as well as for his professional leadership.

Professor Colin Stirling said the effects of sleep deprivation were felt far and wide.

 “We’ve all experienced the short-term impacts of sleep deprivation – perhaps through the nocturnal behaviour of our youngsters in their early, or later, years or sporadic episodes of insomnia or ailments that make a good night’s sleep impossible,” said Professor Stirling.

He said chronic sleeplessness short changed the essential rest, repair and revitalization our bodies need, and could be deeply debilitating.

‘Quite apart from the immediate effects on our energy, our mood and our ability to function, our knowledge about the long-term health, social and economic consequences is building exponentially.

“Lack of sleep has been associated with heart failure, cancer, diabetes, dementia, stroke, mental health, obesity and many other serious conditions; sleep difficulties are often indicated where people have compounding ailments. 

“This comes at a significant personal cost, affecting not just our quality of life, but potentially, our life span. It extracts a high price on those close to us and our relationships.

And it takes a toll on communities, workplaces and economies – research published by Professor Doug McEvoy and his colleagues in 2016 estimated one and a half million Australians experience sleep difficulties, at a direct and indirect cost of more than $35 billion a year.

“We are on the cusp of major advances in our understanding the fundamental importance of sleep to human health and how loss or disorders of sleep contribute to reduced wellbeing, low work productivity, chronic disease, accidents and premature death,” said Professor Doug McEvoy.