Lakehead University researchers are not sleeping on the importance of rest

September 14, 2022 – Thunder Bay, Ont.

Dr. Deborah Scharf from Lakehead University is working on a component of a $1.37 million research study examining sleep.

Photo of Dr. Deb Scharf

The overarching aim of this research is to help all people living in Canada understand the value of sleep health, and if necessary, to access and utilize evidence-based resources and interventions that consider the complexity and severity of their insomnia in light of their life circumstances. 

Dr. Scharf, who is an Associate Professor in Psychology, is a co-investigator on this project. She will help design and conduct sleep intervention mobilization studies in priority populations, such as those at high risk for sleep-related workplace injuries like truck drivers and police.

“Sleep is fundamental to all aspects of wellbeing,” Dr. Scharf said.

“It impacts our feelings such as mood and anxiety, and our thinking including concentration and decision making.

“Sleep also impacts our physical health through factors including immune response and aging,” she said.

“At the same time, most people have very limited access to evidence-based treatments for improving their sleep when they need them. The purpose of this research is to begin to change that.”

Trent Lynds, a master’s student in clinical psychology at Lakehead University, is also part of the team, promoting equity through his role as an Indigenous person and clinical psychology graduate student trainee. 

Photo of Trent Lynds

“I am thrilled to be a member of such an incredible research team,” Lynds said.

“Our research will enlighten our understanding of sleep difficulties among Indigenous peoples in Canada, and will foster better nights among the population.”

Insomnia is the most prevalent sleep disorder and has significant impacts on daytime functioning, including physical and mental health, social relationships, and cognition and learning.

Those who do not meet diagnostic criteria for insomnia, but have symptoms of insomnia, also experience daytime consequences and benefit from treatment. Experts are increasingly recognizing that insomnia – and more generally poor sleep – is a public health crisis globally, including in Canada.

The research team has evidence on how best to treat insomnia, but most individuals do not receive evidence-based interventions or are receiving inappropriate treatment as first-line treatment. For the last decade, Dr. Penny Corkum from Dalhousie University and her group have developed and evaluated a range of digital interventions to support sleep health and treat insomnia in infants and young adults.

Through this $1.37 million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Dr. Corkum’s team will leverage the existing infrastructure and platforms to develop, evaluate, and sustain a Canada-wide digital healthy sleep promotion campaign for across the lifespan – building on its Sleeping during COVID-19 campaign conducted in collaboration with the Canadian Sleep Society and Canadian Sleep and Circadian Network.

The team will also develop eHealth programs to treat insomnia across the lifespan, building on the existing Better Nights, Better Days programs for children and youth ages one to 23 years old.

They will also create eLearning programs to provide health-care professionals who are not sleep specialists, and educators with knowledge about sleep and its treatment.

Integrated into every aspect of this research is a focus on understanding and addressing barriers to equitable access for Canadians who face the greatest levels of health disparities, including Indigenous peoples, sexual and racial minorities, immigrants, and people living with functional limitations from mental and/or physical health disorders.

Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation, congratulated Dr. Scharf and thanked CIHR for funding this important research.

“We all sleep and know the value of quality sleep for our well being, performance and general health,” Dr. Dean said.

“Understanding and appreciating the value of sleep and the effects of insomnia through evidence-based research is highly impactful.”




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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has nine faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2022 World Universities Rankings for the third consecutive year, and the number one university in the world with fewer than 10,000 students in THE’s 2022 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit