Dr Gemma Paech

Dr Gemma Paech

What are your research interests?

  • Sleep loss and sleep restriction
  • Circadian misalignment (the mismatch between the internal body clock and the sleep-wake schedule)
  • How these factors affect sleep quality, cognitive functioning and health
  • Using non-invasive therapies to improve sleep, cognitive functioning and health
  • Shift work and the impact of working schedules on sleep, cognitive functioning and health
  • Sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, circadian rhythm disorders, hypersomnia and insomnia

Why did you get into research?

During high school I was the annoying, or at least I think my teachers thought so, student who kept asking questions in class; I had a curiosity to learn and find out more. When deciding on a university degree, it seemed natural for me to continue my interest in science where I could find answers to my questions. After my undergraduate program I discovered this fascinating place called the “Centre for Sleep Research” and the rest as they say is history! 

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

My vision is to see how improving sleep can be used as a means to improve health and waking functions across a range of illnesses and not just sleep disorders. If sleep can be improved, not just for patients with diagnosed sleep disorders but for all people, recovery from illness and medical conditions could also improve. 

Biography

Dr Paech is the Senior Sleep Scientist in the Adult Sleep Laboratory, John Hunter Hospital where she works to oversee and coordinate research projects relating to circadian rhythms, sleep and sleep medicine. Dr Paech received her PhD in 2014 from the University of South Australia after which she moved to the USA to undertake two postdoctoral fellowships. In the first at Washington State University in Spokane, she investigated the effects of sleep loss on cognitive performance tasks. At Rush University Medical College in Chicago, she studied the effects of a shifted sleep-wake schedule on the sleep and performance of African-Americans and European-Americans. 

Dr Paech has over 18 published papers, one of which was the first paper to look at the simultaneous effects of sleep restriction and circadian misalignment on sleep structure. This paper offered new insights into how sleep is regulated by the circadian (internal body clock) and homeostatic (prior sleep and wake history) processes when sleep is severely restricted, such as what occurs in shift workers. She has also studied how varying shift work schedules affect sleep and performance and how countermeasures of fatigue such as caffeine can be used to mitigate the negative effects associated with sleep loss. 

Over the course of her short research career, Dr Paech has been actively engaged with educating the general public about sleep, shift work and circadian rhythms, having been invited to write eight articles for the scientific website “The Conversation” and having given 16 interviews for local and national TV, newspapers and radio stations. 

Specialised/Technical Skills 

  • Sleep 
  • Circadian rhythms 
  • Sleep disorders 
  • Measuring sleep in laboratory and field settings 
  • Light treatment for circadian rhythm disorders 
  • Cognitive performance 
  • Sleep quality and quantity

Affiliations

  • Australian Sleep Association
  • Sleep Research Society
  • Sleep Health Foundation
  • Australian Chronobiology Society
  • Adult Sleep Laboratory, John Hunter Hospital

Downloads

ABC Newcastle interview with Kia Handley - 19 February 2019