Sleep, biological rhythms and health outcomes – Amy Reynolds

Get to know Amy Reynolds

We have one of the biggest experimental human sleep research laboratories in the southern hemisphere.

Sleep, biological rhythms and health outcomes – Amy Reynolds

Personal experience
I commenced my PhD in 2010, and was conferred in February 2015. In that time, I had two babies and moved interstate (and back!). So, I covered a fair bit of ground in the ‘life events’ during my PhD!

My research ‘A-ha!’ moment was during my Psychology honours year. I was not even remotely interested in research; however, I had an outstanding supervisor who showed me that research could be fascinating and limitless in terms of ‘ideas’ and interest. I am still grateful for the influence she had in my career.

Research at CQUniversity: Sleep, biological rhythms and health outcomes and the applications for businesses/society/the environment

CQUniversity is home to the Appleton Institute, a group of outstanding sleep, biological rhythms and health researchers. They are motivated, hard-working and innovative. I have the freedom to drive my own research agenda and work with some outstanding colleagues. This is one of the best parts of my job – being surrounded by fantastic people who have great research ideas.

Did you know that we have one of the biggest experimental human sleep research laboratories in the southern hemisphere? We can have six people living in a sleep laboratory at any one time, completely isolated from the world. We can see what happens when we change their sleep, eating and waking times without any input from light, devices or other people. This is fascinating research! Importantly, our research in this area is multidisciplinary and covers a range of approaches, including experimental and epidemiological research. I think this is one of our strengths – you really can get a big picture from different perspectives.

Sleep influences so many aspects of our health and wellbeing and there is still so much we don’t know (or so much still to find out, depending on your perspective!). Mental health, physical health, chronic disease, work productivity – there are so many different angles depending on what piques your interest. Plus, our body is full of ‘clocks’ (biological rhythms), and there is so much to learn about what keeps us ticking.

We’re known for our flexibility. We supervise students by distance and in person. We are a University used to thinking outside the square to make sure research careers are an option for those with the passion to pursue them. We are connected with industry and we do research which has real-world impact.

The best thing about doing research in sleep, biological rhythms and health outcomes at CQUni varies from student to student. I would like to believe that one of the best aspects is that the research we do directly informs health promotion and industry (policy). If we can find ways to support the community to sleep better and improve health, this feels amazing.

Many of our researchers are invited to give keynote speeches and invited symposia on their cutting-edge research; this is probably one of the best indicators of respect for our research in the sector. Our experimental human research is often published in high impact journals, and is well-cited. We also publish numerous theoretical and systematic reviews promoting new ideas and ways of thinking about research in this space, often in Sleep Medicine Reviews, which is the premier review source for research in our field. We are also actively involved in professional societies in Australia and internationally. I feel like these are all great indicators of our reputation, and our connectedness with the broader community.

Current research projects

We do a lot of work with industry to better understand how sleep (and fatigue) impact on productivity and safety. We are also increasingly working to better inform industry and employees about the impact of work practices (including sleep and biological rhythms) on health. This is a really exciting and increasingly important area of research. This is important because, put simply, we all need sleep and recent Australian research suggests we don’t get enough of it, with consequences for our health, safety and productivity.

Research career highlights

There have been a number of high points over the years! Perhaps the most recent highlight was being awarded a grant from the Australasian Sleep Association, named for one of our field’s recognised researchers. It was a competitive process and a real honour to receive.

The only career I would choose aside from research would be medicine; but I suspect even then I’d be researching. I love what I do!

Explore more about current research at CQUni’s School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences.