Spotlight on sex and gambling as CQUni researchers get pitch-perfect

Published:20 November 2017

CQUni finalists in the 5 Minute Research Pitch national competition, Dr Alex Russell and Dr Michele Lastella.

Two academics from CQUniversity will take on the nation’s best young researchers in the Five Minute Research Pitch competition – with a whirlwind journey through Australia’s gambling networks, and between the nation’s sheets.

Sleep researcher Dr Michele Lastella is arguing that sex can help solve your sleepless nights – but it’s got to be mutually satisfying.

And gambling academic Dr Alex Russell is out to prove that for problem punters, beating their addiction can come down to the habits of their friends.

The pair beat a strong field of CQUni contenders for the chance to present their research at the national final, to be hosted at CQUniversity Melbourne on Tuesday 21 November.

Based at CQUni’s Appleton Sleep Science Institute in Adelaide, Dr Lastella surveyed more than 460 adults to reach his conclusions about sex and sleep.

“What we found was mutually-satisfying sex with a partner promoted better sleep for 64 per cent of respondents – compared to better sleep for 50 per cent of respondents who’d orgasmed on their own, through masturbation,” Dr Lastella explained.

With survey subjects aged 18 through to 70, Dr Lastella said that struggles to sleep could hit at any age – and the survey showed natural options could save sufferers from turning to drugs.

“A growing issue for sleep is that people don’t switch off – instead of being on our phones before we sleep, there’s strong evidence to suggest substituting screen time for play time!” he said.

Dr Russell, of CQUni’s Experimental Gambling Research Laboratory, also looks at social habits – and how the social networks of gamblers can push them into problem behaviour.

“We know 67% of Australians gamble – and we’re terrible at it! Gambling loss per capita in Australia is the highest worldwide, at $18 billion per year total,” Dr Russell explained.

“So we want to know who the problem gamblers are, and what influences them – we know a lot about advertising impacts, but what about social influences?”

Dr Russell’s study asked 800 people to identify the 20 most-influential people in their lives, and whether they gambled.

“Maybe not surprisingly, problem gamblers were surrounded by other gamblers – 13 of their top 20 influencers gamble, compared to 7 out of 20 for recreational gamblers, and 3 out of 20 for non-gamblers,” he said.

“For a problem gambler wanting to quit, we need to take into account these powerful social influences – especially if they’re family, or friends in the workplace, it’s not realistic to remove them from their lives, but what we can do is build strategies to manage the influence they have.”

The Five Minute Research Pitch (5RP) final sees 14 early career academics from seven universities match research smarts and pitching skills, to a judging panel of academics and journalists.

The event will include researchers from:

*           Australian Catholic University

*           Central Queensland University

*           Charles Sturt University

*           Southern Cross University

*           University of Southern Queensland

*           University of Tasmania, and

*           Victoria University.

The participants have all already faced a field of research pitch contenders from their own institution, winning through to represent their work at a national level.

The public event will be hosted by CQUniversity researcher and 2016 5RP winner Dr Melanie Hayman, whose pitch outlined tracking fitness during pregnancy, impressing judges and winning CQUniversity the right to host in 2017.

The pitches will be also streamed live on Zoom via, with real and remote audience members able to vote for a People’s Choice Award winner. Voting opens at 10.30am AEDT and closes at 1pm.

Winners will share in a prize pool of $6000 for the support of their research project.