Sleep inertia, circadian misalignment and waking performance in shift workers

Insufficient or mistimed sleep can affect our ability to mentally and physically perform; this project will focus on the development of countermeasures, including manipulating the light environment and using caffeine, to optimise sleep and performance in situations such as night shift work.

Start date

30 October 2019


3 years

Application deadline

Funding source

University of Surrey and QinetiQ

Funding information

The project is fully funded with an annual stipend of £15,000 per year for full-time students.


The primary aim of this project will be to develop novel countermeasures for the circadian misalignment, sleep inertia and sleep disturbance that occurs in situations such as night shift work. This will include setting up and running a clinical study and then analysing the samples, EEG and psychometric data collected.

Night shift work is associated with disrupted and shortened sleep, and consequently this affects waking performance and productivity.  In addition, night shift work is associated with an increased risk of accidents and development of medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer. Developing countermeasures for the adverse effects of night shift work, to improve the quality and quantity of daytime sleep and reducing sleepiness/enhancing performance during the night shift, are critical for the individual workers and the public they serve. Manipulating the light environment and using caffeine are both potential countermeasures.

During the course of the project, the PhD student will undertake a thorough literature review around the human circadian system, sleep homeostasis, neurobehavioural performance, shift work and countermeasures. The student will learn and be responsible for all aspects of set-up, conduct and analysis of the project, including, but not limited to:

  • Preparation of documents for submission to the ethics committee
  • Preparation of study-related documentation
  • Recruit and screen healthy participants
  • Set-up and validate psychometric test battery and sleep recording system
  • Wire up participants for sleep recordings
  • Conduct all baseline and experimental sessions
  • RIA or ELISA techniques to measure caffeine and endogenous melatonin levels in salivary samples
  • PCR techniques for genotyping
  • Stage sleep and conduct quantitative EEG analysis
  • Analysing psychometric test data. 


Professor Dijk, PhD, FRSB, FMedSci, is Professor of Sleep and Physiology, Distinguished Professor at the University of Surrey, and the Director of the Surrey Sleep Research Centre. He has more than 35 years of experience in clinical sleep research and has published more than 250 research and review papers in the area of sleep and circadian rhythms. 

Dr Revell, PhD is a Lecturer in Translational Sleep and Circadian Physiology. Her research over the past 19 years has primarily focussed on the human circadian system and optimising interventions to minimise the health consequences of circadian disruption and insufficient sleep, including jet lag and night shift work.

Related links

Surrey Sleep Research Centre

Eligibility criteria

Applicants will hold an upper second honours degree.

IELTS requirements: overall score of 6.2 or above (or equivalent) with 6 in each individual category.

This studentship is open to UK and EU students only.

Interviews will be taking place on the week commencing 7 October 2019.

How to apply

Potential applicants should apply via the University of Surrey Doctoral College admissions system, via the Biosciences and Medicine PhD course page

Biosciences and Medicine PhD

Application deadline

Contact details

Victoria Revell
03 MA 00
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 689383

The research will be completed at the Surrey Sleep Research Centre and QinetiQ, Farnborough.


Studentships at Surrey

We have a wide range of studentship opportunities available.