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Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Laboratory

Circadian rhythms are fluctuations in biological processes occurring on a 24 hour basis. We measure the circadian rhythms of body temperature, heart rate and hormone levels of humans in carefully controlled laboratory conditions in order to investigate the relationship between these rhythms and sleep. It appears that certain types of sleep disorders may be caused by delays or advances in the timing of the circadian rhythms and therefore may be treated with manipulations to normalise the timing of the rhythms. One such treatment is the exposure to bright light in the evening for those who have early morning awakening insomnia. Evening light treatment delays their rhythms and lengthens their sleep. The opposite treatment of early morning bright light seems to be an effective treatment in cases of sleep onset insomnia and delayed sleep phase disorder. We are presently developing new means of administering bright light and investigating the use of bright light therapy in conjunction with other behavioural therapies for the treatment of a variety of insomnias and daytime sleepiness. We are also investigating other aspects of sleep and treatments for insomnia including the beneficial effects of brief naps, sleep misperception and re-training of insomniacs, and a novel, more rapid treatment for sleep onset insomnia.


Leon C Lack, BA, PhD
Michael Gradisar, PhD

Support Staff

Helen Wright, MPsych, PhD, Research Associate
Nicole Lovato, PhD, Research Associate
Hayley Dohnt, PhD, Research Associate
Paul Douglas, Technical Officer
Ben Maddock, Technical Officer
David Hall, Technical Officer


Michelle Short, PhD Student
Gorica Micic, PhD Student
Christine Brown, MClinPsych Student
Madeline Sprajcer, BPsych, Honours Student
Philippa Turvey, BPsych, Honours Student
Michael Fordyce, BPsych, Honours Student


Prof Leon Lack

Ph: (08) 8201 2391
Int Ph: +61 8 8201 2391

Email: leon.lack@flinders.edu.au

University Profile Page

Research Projects

Collaborative Research

Assoc Prof Helen Burgess, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, USA: Circadian Rhythms in delayed sleep phase disorder.

Assoc Prof Sally Ferguson, Appleton Institute, Central Queensland University: Circadian Rhythms in delayed sleep phase disorder.

Assoc Prof Shantha Rajaratnam, Monash University, Vic: Melatonin Administration for delayed sleep phase disorder.

Prof Mary Carskadon, Brown University, Rhode Island: Cross cultural comparison of Adolescent sleep in Australia and the United States.

Dr Jennifer Hudson, Psychology, Macquarie University: The assessment and treatment of co-morbid anxiety and sleep disorder symptomatology in children and adolescents.

Dr Nicola Spurrier (Flinders Medical Centre) and Dr Anne Sved-Williams (University of Adelaide): The mental health outcomes of young children enrolled in a randomised controlled trial of behavioural interventions for infant sleep disturbance.

Dr Annemarie Meijer, Social & Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam: Validation of the Flinders Fatigue Scale and the Chronic Sleep Reduction Questionnaire in Australian and Dutch Adolescents.

Recent Media Appearances

  • Leon Lack - InDaily, Wake-up call for US cancer research, 24 July 2015. http://indaily.com.au/flinders-news/2015/07/24/wake-up-call-for-us-cancer-research/
  • Leon Lack and AISH - Channel 9 Today Show, Beating Insomnia, 18 June 2014.
  • Doug McEvoy, Leon Lack and AISH - Sunday Mail, Secrets of sleep as harried new parents, monster-fearing kids and insomnia, 1 June 2014.
  • Leon Lack - Southern Health News, Taking the fear out of insomnia, p11, October 2013.

Recent Publications

Short MA, Gradisar M, Lack LC, Wright HR, Dohnt H (2013) The sleep patterns and well-being of Australian adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 36(1):103-10

Lovato N, Lack L, Wright H, Cant M, Humphreys J (2013) Working memory performance of older adults with insomnia. Journal of Sleep Research, 22(3):251-7

Harris J, Lack L, Kemp K, Wright H, Bootzin R (2012) A randomized controlled trial of intensive sleep retraining (ISR): a brief conditioning treatment for chronic insomnia. Sleep, 35(1):49-60

Short MA, Gradisar M, Lack LC, Wright H, Carskadon MA (2012) The discrepancy between actigraphic and sleep diary measures of sleep in adolescents. Sleep Medicine, 13(4):378-84

Lack LC and Wright HR (2012) Circadian rhythm disorders 1: Phase-advanced & phase-delayed disorders. In C Espie & C Morin (Eds), Oxford Handbook on Sleep and Sleep Disorders, Oxford University Press, pp 597-625

Cain N, Gradisar M and Moseley L (2011) A motivational school-based sleep intervention of adolescent sleep problems. Sleep Medicine, 12:246-251

Paine S & Gradisar M (2011) A randomised controlled trial of cognitive-behaviour therapy for Behavioural Insomnia of Childhood in school-aged children. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 49:378-388

Harris J and Lack L (2011) Intensive Sleep Retraining: Conditioning Treatment for Primary Insomnia. In M Aloia, B Kuhn & M Perlis (Eds). Behavioral Treatments for Sleep Disorders, Maryland: Elsevier, pp127-131

Gradisar M, Gardner G and Dohnt H (2011) Recent worldwide sleep patterns and problems during adolescence: A review and meta-analysis of age, region, and sleep. Sleep Medicine, 12:110-118

Lack LC and Wright HR (2011) Sleep Disorders. In K Phelps and C Hassad (Eds). General Practice: The Integrative Approach, Elsevier Australia, pp623-636

Lack LC and Wright HR (2011) The use of bright light in the treatment of insomnia. In M Aloia, B Kuhn & M Perlis (Eds). Behavioral Treatments for Sleep Disorders, Maryland: Elsevier, pp.e1-e6

Short M, Gradisar M, Wright H, Lack L, Dohnt H & Carskadon M (2011) Time to bed: Parent-set bedtimes improve the sleep, wakefulness and daytime functioning of adolescents. Sleep, 34:797-800

Johnston A, Gradisar MS, Dohnt HK, Billows MM & McCappin SA (2010) Adolescent sleep and fluid intelligence performance. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 8(3):180-186

Lack LC & Wright HR (2010) Circadian Rhythms and Insomnia. In H Attarian & C Schuman (Eds). Clinical Handbook of Insomnia, 2nd Ed, New York, Springer, pp 243-53

Short M, Lack LC & Wright HR (2010) Does subjective sleepiness predict objective sleep propensity? Sleep, 123-129

Cain NL & Gradisar MS (2010) Electronic media use and sleep in school-aged children and adolescents: A review. Sleep Medicine, 11:735-742

Carney CE, Edinger JD, Morin CM, Manber R, Rybarczyk B, Stepanski EJ, Wright HR & Lack LC (2010) Examining maladaptive beliefs about sleep across insomnia patient groups. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 68(1):57-65

Weaver EA, Gradisar MS, Dohnt HK, Lovato N & Douglas PA (2010) The effect of pre-sleep video-game playing on adolescent sleep. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 6(2):184-189

Lovato N, Lack L (2010) The effects of napping on cognitive functioning. In GA Kerkhof and HPA van Dongen (Eds), Human Sleep and Cognition, Vol 185, Oxford: Elsevier Science, 155-166

Tremaine R, Dorrian J, Lack LC, Lovato N, Ferguson S, Zhou XF & Roach G (2010) The relationship between subjective and objective sleepiness and performance during a simulated night-shift with a nap countermeasure. Applied Ergonomics, 52-61


Updated August 17, 2015