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Approved Research

A multifactorial investigation into the determinants and outcomes of sleep and circadian health

Principal Investigator: Dr Eva Winnebeck
Approved Research ID: 93538
Approval date: November 7th 2022

Lay summary

Sleep is not a commodity but an essential biological process. Good quality and sufficient sleep helps to maintain health, well-being and performance, while poor sleep has been found to put people at risk, both in the short-term (acute effects) and long-term (chronic effects). But what makes people sleep better or worse, later or earlier, more or less, regularly or irregularly? And which of these sleep aspects influence which aspects of health?


In this project, we seek to use the extensive data of the UK Biobank to shed more light on the factors that can influence sleep as well as the possible consequences for health. The factors that we will study are individual factors such as participants' genetics and chronotype, environmental factors such as season or weather as well as sleep factors such as how and when an individual slept the night before. To assess potential health consequences, we will be investigating the relationship between various sleep features and common diseases that affect large parts of the population e.g. diabetes, atherosclerosis or depression.


We aim to expand on previous findings by deriving new measures of sleep habits and circadian variability, primarily through accelerometer data, investigating the contribution of genetics on new and existing sleep measures through analysis of genotyping or sequence data and explore the long-term effects of sleep and circadian dysfunction on disease risk and progression by incorporating information on genetic predisposition with ongoing healthcare records. We intend to build a more complete picture of how a combination of genetics and environment (and their interaction) contribute to the range of sleep habits (and dysfunction) seen amongst the population.

The project is planned to be long-lived, incorporating new methodology, data sources and expertise as they arise. The initial period will be three years. The insights from our project should aid both basic research and public health. A better understanding of the importance of sleep for healthy living and better knowledge about which factors lead to poor sleep enables better public health campaigns and prioritisation for preventive medicine to improve population health. Insights into the genetics of sleep patterns can help to identify new sleep medicines. Finally, the development of new analysis tools, incorporation of external environmental data and extraction of novel sleep measures will benefit the wider research community and accelerate sleep research.