Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity (Alertness CRC)

Getting enough quality sleep is essential for optimal functioning during the waking day. Unfortunately, sleep is often neglected and lacking in today’s 24 hour society through shiftwork, family commitments, sub-optimal sleep habits and a rising prevalence of sleep disorders. Almost 20% of Australian adults are sleeping less than six hours per night and/or suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), insomnia or shiftwork disorder. The resulting economic and health care costs are enormous and cost Australia over $35 billion every year. There is a clear need to reduce this societal burden.

The effect of sleep loss on day time function is complex and highly variable from one person to the next. It is now recognised that “the one size fits all” approach to managing the risks of sleep loss, shiftwork and sleep disorders is not appropriate. New innovative approaches and technologies are needed to quantify alertness and the risk of alertness failure in the workplace and in sleep clinics towards reducing the risk of alertness failure through improved shiftwork scheduling, lighting and personalised sleep healthcare delivery. This is the main goal of the Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity (Alertness CRC), which has two main research programs: 1) Alertness Measurement and Prediction and, 2) Safety and Productivity Improvements.

SAHMRI Heart Health Theme researchers from the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health, Flinders Centre of Research Excellence (AISH FCRE) are key participants in the Alertness CRC. In the Alertness CRC Program 2, Professor Doug McEvoy leads the Personalised Sleep Health theme which is running three distinct projects aiming to develop novel clinically deployable “phenotyping toolkits” to help phenotype the causes and daytime performance and productivity consequences of the two main sleep disorders, OSA and insomnia. This is designed to allow for tailored and personalized sleep healthcare delivery. The specific aims of this research theme are:

  • to develop, test and validate new measures/tools, suitable for deployment in routine clinical practice, for phenotyping OSA and insomnia, including their main underlying causes and their consequences on daytime alertness, safety and productivity; and
  • to develop and test the efficacy of new therapy interventions tailored to individual OSA/insomnia patients based on their phenotype to demonstrate the utility and applicability of these personalised sleep medicine approaches in mainstream clinical practice. Better targeted treatments are likely to improving outcomes for patients and the broader community.
OSA Respiratory Phenotyping - Project leader - A/Prof Peter Catcheside

OSA Vulnerability to Alertness Failure (OSA-VAF) phenotyping - Project Leader Dr Andrew Vakulin

Insomnia and OSA/Comorbid Insomnia - Project Leader Dr Christopher Gordon, University of Sydney

The Alertness CRC Team in Adelaide:

Key Senior Researchers

Professor Leon Lack

A/Prof Nick Antic

Postdoctoral Researchers

Dr Nicole Lovato

Dr David Stevens

Dr Emer Van Ryswyk


Mr Rohit Philips

Ms Kelsey Bickley

Ms Kelsey Altmann

Alertness CRC Engineering

The CRC requires significant engineering input to help develop innovative technologies for detecting alertness and predicting alertness failure. The Heart Health Theme researchers are working closely with AISH FCRE members and Alertness CRC participant Professor Karen Reynolds and Dr Sherry Randhawa from the School of Computer Science, Engineering & Mathematics at Flinders University, specifically to:

  • develop, sleep laboratory or office device including integrative software and hardware to assess neurophysiological biomarkers of vulnerability to alertness failure; and
  • refine analytical methods needed to support high throughput detailed respiratory and electrophysiological phenotyping measurements and their translation into clinically deployable devices.

Alertness CRC Healthcare Project

Heart Health Theme researchers from AISH FCRE are also contributing to Alertness CRC Healthcare Project lead by Monash researchers and conducted at Austin Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre. This project aims to develop new approaches for identifying and predicting healthcare staff who are most vulnerable to alertness failure due to shift work; personalised sleep health management tools suitable for deployment through occupational health and safety programs; a new framework for rostering and scheduling to be tested first in healthcare settings and subsequently translated to other industry settings.

Healthcare Project AISH FCRE team members:

Dr Ching Li Chai-coetzer – Site representative

Ms HelenMary McMeekan

Mr Mr William Plewa

From L to R: Dr Andrew Vakulin; Ms Helenmary McMeekan; Mr William Plewa; Dr Sherry Ranhawa; Prof Leon Lack; Dr Nicole Lovato; A/Prof Peter Catcheside; Dr Ching Li-Chai-Coetzer; Prof Karen Reynolds; Prof Doug McEvoy; Ms Kelsey Bickley; Mr Rohit Philip

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+61 8 8128 4000
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North Terrace Adelaide 5000 South Australia
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PO BOX 11060 Adelaide 5001 South Australia
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SAHMRI is located on the traditional lands of the Kaurna Nation.

The SAHMRI community acknowledges and respects the traditional owners, the family clans who are the Kaurna Nation from the Adelaide Plains region of South Australia. We acknowledge the clans of the Kaurna Nation and the sacred knowledge they hold for their country. We pay our respects to the Kaurna Nation, their ancestors and the descendants of these living family clans today.