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Student opportunities

Background: Healthy sleep is vital for good physical and mental health. Sleep disorders and voluntary and societally-driven sleep restriction have a major negative impact on health, productivity and safety in Australia and internationally. A conservative estimate of the direct and indirect economic cost in Australia of the two most common disorders of obstructive sleep apnoea and insomnia alone is over $5 billion per year. Disturbingly, current health services and policy fail to cost-effectively manage these highly prevalent disorders due to inadequate training and resourcing of primary care professionals in sleep management and over-reliance on specialist services, complex and costly sleep apnea testing and unregulated industry practices. 

To address this problem the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health (AISH) was recently awarded a 5-year Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) grant by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to establish a National Centre for Sleep Health Services Research.  The Centre brings together an extensive network of internationally recognised experts in sleep and respiratory medicine/research, general practice, nursing, pharmacy, health services and policy research, epidemiology, health economics and sleep health technologies. Using this expertise it will show how primary care can be placed at the centre of sleep disorders service delivery. 


Aim: The focus will be on deployment of simplified, cost-effective, evidence-based methods for diagnosing and managing sleep problems in primary care, with primary care practitioners better connected and supported with specialist sleep services in a “hub and spoke” model.     


Potential PhD Project Opportunities

There are a number of potential PhD project opportunities available through the CRE program, including:


PROJECT A. Developing and testing sleep health decision support (eHealth) systems for primary care to assist the GPs and other primary care professionals in screening and managing sleep disorders. A prototype web-based sleep health decision support system has been developed for community use, but will need to be adapted for primary care and tested for effectiveness in a cluster randomised trial. The main aims of this CRE project are therefore to:

  1. Identify the technology gaps and opportunities to assist primary care professionals with screening and management of sleep disorders.

  2. Based on these qualitative research findings, revise and enhance the capability of the sleep health decision support (eHealth) tool for use in primary care, and 

  3. Test the effectiveness of the sleep health decision support system in primary care in a cluster randomised control trial. The aim of the trial will be to show:

            a.   Increased patient self-management of asymptomatic obstructive sleep apnea and improve GP care of sleep apnea

            b.   Decreased hypnotic drug prescriptions and increased non-drug (behavioural) insomnia therapies.


This PhD project would suit an outstanding and enthusiastic candidate with an interest in health services research. Technical background in biomedical engineering, eHealth system,web-development would be an advantage. Dr Andrew Vakulin is the primary supervisor for this project.


Other Important Information


Host University: Flinders University


Host Departments: Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health: A Flinders Centre of Research Excellence, College of Medicine and Public Health.


Desired candidate: We are seeking bright and enthusiastic candidates with 1st class honours completion with an interest in research into sleep health services, clinical sleep disorders, eHealth systems development, sleep psychology, insomnia and sleep apnea. If you are interested in joining the CRE team at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health at Flinders University to undertake PhD project there are PhD scholarships is available for outstanding 1st class honours candidates.


Period of study: This scholarship is available to eligible candidates to undertake a direct entry into a 3-year PhD program. 


Value and tenure of the scholarship: The full-time stipend rate is $27,082 per annum (in 2018) tax exempt, for up to 3 years (indexed annually).

For further information about potential PhD projects please contact the CRE team at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health you can contact:

Andrew Vakulin

Dr Andrew Vakulin


P:   7221 8308

Nicole Lovato

Dr Nicole Lovato


P:   7221 8307

Doug McEvoy

Professor Doug McEvoy


P:   7221 8319

Ching Li Chai-Coetzer

Dr Ching Li Chai-Coetzer


P:   7221 8313

Leon Lack

Professor Leon Lack


P:   8201 2391

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