Sleep disorders

Disturbed sleep is common in the Australian community. International population-based studies (primarily US-based) suggest that sleep disturbance is largely attributable to specific sleep disorders, the majority of which are undiagnosed.

Very few population-based surveys of sleep disturbance have been conducted in Australia – none using comprehensive sleep assessments – thus local prevalence rates are inferred rather than concrete, limiting our understanding and effective health planning. Furthermore, the phenotypic characteristics that might aid identification of sleep disorders, increase understanding of their pathophysiological basis and indicate co-morbidities that they either predispose to or which are compounded by their presence remain to be defined.

Although research suggests there are familial predispositions to sleep disorders, the genetic basis of predisposition and how this influences phenotypic characteristics associated with disorders is unknown. There is a critical need for more information about the prevalence, phenotype and genetic basis of sleep disorders, particularly the three most common variants: obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), insomnia and restless legs syndrome/periodic leg movement syndrome (RLS/PLMS).

Our research leverages off data already collected from participants of The Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study. This internationally unique longitudinal study has followed 2,868 individuals over the last 23 years, with comprehensive assessments in utero, continuing throughout childhood and, now, into early adulthood. Genetic data have been obtained in all these participants and as of mid-2014, 1,200 participants will have undergone comprehensive laboratory-based sleep studies and anthropometric measurements, seven-day/night actigraphy-based activity monitoring, cognitive function testing and questionnaires.

The proposed study will replicate the comprehensive battery of tests and analysis in the parents of the 1,200 young adult participants of The Raine Study. In addition, we will conduct genetic analyses of the parents, enabling us to investigate familial associations and genetic risk variants associated with sleep disorders.

The specific aims of this project are to:

  • Determine the prevalence of common sleep disorders (e.g., OSA, insomnia and RLS/PLMS) in a typical middle-aged Australian population-based cohort.
  • Characterise the phenotype of common sleep disorders in a middle-aged Australian population based cohort in order to determine the most important phenotypic characteristics associated with health impairments and relevant risk factors.
  • Use parent and offspring data to determine the associations between parental and offspring phenotype and to discover genetic risk variants associated with common sleep disorders.

This project is a collaborative effort between the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology (APHB), the West Australian Sleep Disorders Research Institute (WASDRI) at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and GOHaD:


This work will be supported by theNational Health and Medical Research Council in 2015 – 2017: $1,419,485. Prevalence, phenotype and genotype of common sleep disorders (1084947).

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