Sleep and Biological Rhythms


The Sleep, Fatigue and Circadian Rhythms research group conducts a range of basic and applied research projects related to the sleep/wake and circadian systems of children and adults. In particular, we examine the effects of sleep loss and circadian disruption on cognitive function, accident risk, physical health, and mental well-being; we develop, implement, and evaluate tools, procedures, and systems to minimise fatigue risk in safety-critical workplaces; and we collaborate with industry and government stakeholders to inform policy and practice regarding safe hours of work.


The Appleton Institute has a world-class sleep research facility at CQUniversity’s Adelaide campus.  The facility has two adjacent accommodation suites that are set-up like serviced apartments. Together, the suites can house up to six participants concurrently, each with their own private bedroom, lounge room and bathroom. Each suite also has a kitchen, dining room and laundry, so participants can reside in comfort. The suites are equipped with technologies that permit continuous monitoring of a variety of measures related to the sleep/wake system, the circadian system and cognitive functioning.

Sarah Blunden

Professor Sarah Blunden, PhD

Director - Masters of Clinical Psychology and Head of Paediatric Sleep Research
08 8378 4513

Sarah is a clinical psychologist specialising in children’s sleep.  Sarah is Head of Paediatric Sleep Research and the Founder/Director of the Australian Centre for Education in Sleep and the Paediatric Sleep Clinic. Sarah is also Chair of the Indigenous Sleep Working Party, elected paediatric representative of the Education Committee, and Chair of the Sleep Guidelines working party of the Australasian Sleep Association. Sarah has presented over 70 conference presentations and published over 100 academic papers and books, including ‘The Sensible Sleep Solution’ for infants and the 'Boss of My Sleep Book’ for toddlers. Sarah’s areas of research interest are sleep education for schools, communities, families and psychologists, behavioural sleep interventions and indigenous sleep health.

Drew Dawson

Professor Drew Dawson, PhD
Director, Appleton Institute and Associate Vice-Chancellor (South Australia)
08 8378 4507

Drew is the Director of the Appleton Institute for Behavioural Science, the Inaugural Engaged Research Chair at CQUniversity, and the Associate Vice-Chancellor of CQUniversity’s South Australia Region.  Across his career, Drew’s research interests have included the influence of light and melatonin on the human circadian system, quantifying the effects of fatigue in comparison to alcohol intoxication, development of risk management systems to control fatigue and creation of biomathematical models to estimate the fatigue levels associated with irregular work schedules.  Drew advises industry, government, and regulators regarding the identification, assessment, and control of fatigue-related risk.

Michele Lastella

Dr Michele Lastella, PhD
Senior Lecturer - Psychology
08 8378 4536

Michele is a Senior Lecturer at the Appleton Institute for Behavioural Science with research interests in sleep, recovery, training load, sport psychology and sexual behaviours. Michele completed his Honours degree in Psychology in 2009 at the University of the Sunshine Coast and a PhD at CQUniversity in 2015. His PhD examined the stressors that impact the sleep and mood of elite athletes. Michele has received substantial media attention related to his novel research project exploring the perceptions of sex as a sleep-promoting behaviour where he won the 2017 CQUniversity 5 Minute Research Pitch (5RP) competition and was runner-up in the 2017 National 5RP Competition. Michele has experience conducting both laboratory and longitudinal field studies, in collaboration with a number of elite sporting organisations. Being a former elite athlete, Michele brings experience from both an athlete's perspective as well as a researcher perspective.

Greg Roach

Professor Greg Roach, PhD
Sleep & Circadian Physiology 
08 8378 4510

Greg is a Research Professor at the Appleton Institute for Behavioural Science. Greg did his undergraduate studies at the University of Adelaide, then completed his PhD – examining the disruption caused by night work and transmeridian travel – at the University of South Australia. Since completing his PhD, Greg has worked in research-intensive positions – initially at the University of South Australia and now at CQUniversity. Greg’s research is targeted toward making discoveries about the human sleep/wake and circadian systems that can be translated into improved policy and practice to improve health, safety, and productivity. Greg has conducted projects in the sleep laboratory, in high-fidelity road, rail, and flight simulators, and in the elite sports, long-haul transportation, mining, and healthcare industries.

Charli Sargent

Associate Professor Charli Sargent, PhD
Senior Research Fellow in Sleep & Circadian Physiology
08 8378 4516

Charli is an Associate Professor at the Appleton Institute for Behavioural Science. Charli graduated with a PhD in exercise physiology in 2006 from the University of Adelaide. Since that time, Charli has pursued two major areas of research: (i) laboratory-based studies examining the impact of sleep loss and/or irregular sleep patterns on health, fatigue, exercise performance, and cognitive function, and (ii) field-based studies examining the sleep/wake behaviours of elite athletes during training and competition. Charli has served as an editor and organiser for international scientific journals and conferences, she has taught research methods courses for undergraduate students, and she provides supervision for Honours, Masters, and PhD students in the areas of psychology and physiology.

Funding sources include:

  • Australian Research Council (ARC)
  • Beyond Blue
  • Exercise & Sports Science Australia
  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
  • National Institutes of Health (US)

Collaborators include:

  • Australian Institute of Sport
  • Football Federation Australia
  • Queensland Health
  • Union Pacific Railroad (US)
  • Virgin Australia

Projects include:

  • Efficacy of sleep education in improving sleep and performance in school students
  • Impact of training load and sleep on decision-making in elite football referees
  • Impact of sleep loss on glucose metabolism and Type 2 diabetes risk
  • Identifying optimal sleep strategies for daytime breaks between consecutive night shifts
  • Quantity/quality of sleep obtained in economy, business and first-class seats
  • Using light exposure/avoidance to minimise jet lag after transmeridian travel
The Hidden Benefits of Shift Work

Professor Drew Dawson, from CQUniversity, travels the world studying the effects of shift work on the wellbeing of employees.

CQUni Helps Link Increased Complaints Against US Police with Elevated Fatigue

CQUniversity's Professor Drew Dawson has co-authored a study suggesting that complaints against US police officers increase with elevated fatigue and that forced court appearances make them more tired. The study indicates that citizen complaints were most prevalent on night shifts, particularly consecutive night shifts.

Should Schools Start Later in the Day?

Thanks to puberty and hormonal changes, most adolescents stay up later and go to school without enough sleep.  Dr Sarah Blunden talks about how possibly starting classes a little later in the morning could help ensure students are attentive and focused in class.

Timing is Everything - Using Light Avoidance/Exposure to Overcome Jet Lag

Follow tips the Socceroos use to conquer jet lag.

CQUni Researchers Shed Light on Jetlag Solutions

Avoidance and/or exposure to sunlight can help to overcome jetlag, according to new findings from CQUniversity researchers Dr Charli Sargent and Professor Greg Roach. This method has already been successfully applied to hundreds of Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) athletes in preparation for major events, including the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships.

Sex Before Bed Could be the Key to Getting a Perfect Night's Sleep

In a recent survey of 460 adults between the ages of 18 and 70, around 64 per cent of respondents slept better when they had sex with their partners before falling asleep.