Dr Banks has recently returned to Adelaide from the United States after being awarded the UniSA Postdoctoral Fellowship for Women in Science, which supports the development of young female researchers with outstanding potential.
Dr Banks’ says burning the candle at both ends could have health implications.
“Getting less than six hours sleep per night has been found by some researchers to be associated with obesity, high blood pressure and risk for cardiovascular disease,” she said.
“Large epidemiological studies from around the world have suggested there are associations between short sleep and these negative health outcomes, but very few studies have really examined experimentally the hormonal and metabolic disruptions that occur with sleep loss.”
“I’m keen to more systematically investigate what the real link is between sleep loss and associated health effects and in a much larger age range than previously studied.”
Dr Banks will begin by looking at whether shortened sleep exacerbates health problems for people who have metabolic syndrome.
“I will also work with healthy people to see if restricting their sleep causes metabolic disruption,” she said.
“I’ll examine if sleep deprivation could then contribute to healthy individuals developing metabolic syndrome or other health problems.
“At this stage the evidence is inconclusive to whether there is a direct link between sleep loss and the development of health problems, and so careful study of the mechanisms involved is very important.”
Dr Banks’ Fellowship for Women is a three year appointment at UniSA. The Fellowship aims to promote future women leaders in science.