Sleep Research Team


The Physiology of Sleep and its Relationship with Cognition, emotion and Dreams:

A wealth of information has emerged over the past few decades highlighting the importance of sleep, beyond a nice-to-have daily activity. The primary focus of this group is to investigate the ways in which sleep impacts cognitive and emotional processes as well as dreaming.  We approach this question from a physiological perspective, examining the electrophysiology of sleep architecture, as well as a neuropsychological perspective. We investigate both healthy individuals and clinical populations, which have trouble sleeping and perhaps not so coincidentally marked difficulties in cognition and emotional functioning.


Dr Gosia Lipinska: Lecturer and UCT Sleep Sciences Head

My research interests are centred on understanding the relationship between sleep disruption and cognitive-affective processing in psychiatric disorders. This line of inquiry is based on the robust and burgeoning body of research demonstrating the importance of sleep for memory consolidation and affect regulation..

Supervisor: Kevin Thomas; Co-supervisor: Debbie Kaminer. This research is funded by the National Research Foundation and AW Melon Foundation.

Michelle Henry: PhD Candidate

My PhD examines the relationship between quality of life, cortisol levels and sleep, and their impact on cognitive functioning. In particular, the study focuses on patients with Addison’s disease (a chronic illness characterised by a lack of glucocorticoid production). The study consists of 4 main components. The initial phase is a large Quality of Life survey which aims to characterise the complaints of patients with Addison’s disease so as to better understand how we can help patients manage their illness. The subsequent 3 studies objectively assess the relationship between cortisol levels, sleep architecture, and memory. If such a relationship is found the results could have important implications in the management of Addison’s patients dosing regimen, in particular, the amount and times and which they take corticosteroid medication.

PI: Michelle Henry (Department of Psychology), Supervisor: Dr Kevin Thomas (Department of Psychology), Co-supervisor: Dr Ian Ross (Department of Medicine).

Mariza van Wyk: PhD Candidate

What specific role does dreaming fulfill in memory processes during sleep? The memory performances of a population of non-dreamers (but who have intact REM sleep) will be studied in an attempt to delineate the unique role that dreaming plays in memory consolidation, independent of the effects of REM sleep on the consolidation processes.

PI: Mariza van Wyk; Supervisor: Professor Mark Solms; Co-supervisor: Gosia Lipinska. Funded by the National Research Foundation.

Danyal Wainstein: PhD Candidate

Recent dissertation hand in (2013): Non-REM Dreaming in Relation to the Cyclic Alternating Pattern: An Exploratory Study

This project aimed to explore sleep mentation in relation to sleep microstructure, in the hopes of better establishing the psychophysiological correlates of NREM dreaming.

Supervisor: Mark Solms. This research is funded by ............

Siobhan McCreesh: Masters Candidate

Older age as a mediating factor in the role that sleep spindles play for memory consolidation. This research uses the theory of System Consolidation to investigate the relationship between increases in sleep spindle density and improved memory consolidation in the elderly compared to younger adults.

Principle Investigator: Siobhan McCreesh (MSocSci). Supervisor: Progress Njomboro. Co-supervisor: Ridwana Timol.

Matthew Pearce: Masters Candidate

Bachelor of Arts (4 year) in Psychology from University of Central Oklahoma. PGCE from University of KwaZulu Natal

My research is into whether the observed effects of blue light on circadian rhythms can be functionally negated in every-day life for qualitatively better sleep.

Supervisor: Progress Njomboro

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