Sleep & Mental Health Research

Why sleep research matters.

Good sleep can be critical for one’s physical and mental health.

From a physiological standpoint, sleep disorders are often associated with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and weakening of the immune system. Sleep is also important for psychological adaptations such as mood regulation and cognitive functioning - perhaps most notably, it can have a significant impact on our learning, memory and decision-making capabilities. 

As we are increasingly learning through research, poor sleep is also frequently associated with poor mental health.  

One in five people with depression, for instance, have some form of sleep apnea -- and one in five people with sleep apnea have some form of depression. Insomnia is also typically present in individuals with schizophrenia, anxiety and depression, along with abnormalities in sleep physiology and biological rhythms. 

Because sleep is a multi-dimensional phenomenon, there are different types of sleep disturbances that emerge in the context of mental illness. 

By better understanding the nature of these distinct sleep problems, there exists the possibility to personalize and enhance treatments.

To this end, The Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research (IMHR) is continuing to develop and grow its unique Sleep Research Platform.

“Because sleep is a different state of mind, it offers us a really unique window to intervene in mental health and help patients.”
- Dr. Rébecca Robillard

What we do.

The overarching objective of the Sleep Research Platform is to better understand the role of sleep in preventing and treating mental illness; particularly depression.

Our sleep researchers primarily conduct their studies in a four-bedroom Sleep Laboratory at The Royal’s IMHR. Several research projects also harness the cutting-edge PET-MRI technology available at The Royal’s state-of-the-art Brain Imaging Centre . 

Ongoing research studies involve sleep evaluations and intervention studies, as well as basic research on the mechanisms underlying sleep and its related disorders, including sleep disruptions associated with mental health disorders. 

The Sleep Research Platform works closely with The Royal’s Sleep Disorders Clinic, to ensure that any new discoveries or innovations in sleep research can be effectively translated into the best possible prevention and treatment strategies for patients. 

This strong partnership between research and clinical teams offers considerable hope for the 150-200 new patients who are referred to the clinic each month. 

Research Focus:

  • Interventions to improve sleep in individuals with mental disorders;
  • Multi-disciplinary studies investigating the interplay between sleep, cardio metabolic health and mental health; 
  • Mechanisms underlying sleep disorders;
  • Mechanisms underlying sleep disruptions associated with mental health disorders;
  • Impact of sleep on memory, cognition and behaviour 
Woman smiling

Help us transform mental health care: Participate in research

Silhouette of youth standing outside at sunset

Sleep and Mental Health Brochure

Young lady sitting on floor

Mental Health and Sleep for Youth

Caitlin Higginson