New sleep research scholarship

Posted 20 Apr 2020

Nicole Grivell and Bastien Lechat never had the honour of working alongside leading sleep researcher Professor Nick Antic. But they say his work, legacy and reputation surrounds them every day.  

The pair, from Flinders University’s Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health, are the inaugural recipients of the new Nick Antic Sleep Research PhD Scholarship established in memory of the dearly loved sleep expert, who passed away in 2016.

Nicole, an experienced primary care nurse, will use the scholarship to explore how primary care nurses can increase their involvement in the management of sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnoea and insomnia, outside of the hospital setting.

“There are long waiting lists for hospital care for sleep disorders, so we’re focusing on how we can increase the amount of sleep health care provided outside of the hospital setting and by GP practices,” Nicole says.

“Sleep health care is quite new in terms of nursing, and general practice nurses have indicated that whilst they don’t currently have the knowledge or training in sleep health care, they’re very keen to be able to do more…so my research is really looking at exploring the impact they can have on sleep disorders.

“It’s so important because sleep is one of the pillars of good health. It affects us all from birth to death, and without good sleep we can’t function at our best.”

For Nicole it’s a fitting topic, with strong links to some of Professor Antic’s previous research.

“My research builds on some of Nick’s work as he was very much an advocate for nurses being more involved in sleep health care,” Nicole says.

“It’s very nice to honour him in this way as I know how much of an inspiration he was to the researchers here and how much they loved working with him.”

Meanwhile French trained engineer Bastien will use his scholarship to bring an engineering perspective to sleep studies by developing automatic methods to more accurately measure sleep quality and enable better diagnosis.

“At present ‘sleep quality’ is defined quite loosely and sleep test signals are scored manually, so we haven’t yet found a way to describe and measure sleep quality properly and efficiently,” Bastien explains.

“Manual scoring of sleep signals is labour intensive and imprecise, creating an important loss of potentially crucial information. My research focuses on applying algorithms, especially on brainwaves, that can be used to more objectively define sleep quality in sleep research.

“Sleep research is complex, but I think a lot of work can be done by engineers to help doctors to better diagnose sleep disorders.”

It’s estimated that 1.5 million Australians have a sleep disorder, whilst about 40 per cent have inadequate sleep.

Like Nicole, Bastien says it’s an honour to receive a scholarship in Professor Antic’s name.

“Unfortunately, I never met Nick but I’ve heard so much about him, and even today, colleagues will be sitting around discussing our research and they’ll say, ‘we did that with Nick’…his work is often spoken of,” Bastien says.

The sleep research scholarship is supported by Flinders Foundation through generous support from the community, including the generosity of Professor Antic’s family, friends and colleagues.


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