Sleep and Performance Research Center
“Would you like to come to Spokane to help build a sleep lab at Washington State University?”
That’s what Greg Belenky, Founding Director of the Sleep and Performance Research Center (SPRC), asked when he called me after he had arrived in Spokane in the fall of 2004. Funds to establish the SPRC had just been secured through the efforts of former Congressman George Nethercutt.
Greg Belenky, Jim Krueger, Dave Rector, and I embraced the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish a state-of-the-art sleep research laboratory in Spokane. Following a period of quick expansion and a growing portfolio of extramural funding, the SPRC became an official Faculty Senate-approved center of the university in 2008. Bryan Vila built a simulation lab, others joined to teach in the medical sciences program, and the SPRC gained national and international recognition.
Today, the SPRC connects the sleep and performance-related research programs of more than a dozen core faculty, nearly as many affiliated faculty, and countless staff and students across seven of WSU’s colleges.
There is mounting evidence that sleep is essential for performance, safety, health, and well-being. Yet, in today’s 24/7 society, there is a need for people to be awake and at work at all hours of the day. Extended work hours and night and shift work compete with the biological need to sleep and with daily rhythms driven by the biological clock. SPRC faculty work to answer critical questions about the effects of reduced and displaced sleep on cognitive performance and health.
We study sleep and wakefulness in normal people going about their everyday lives or sequestered in the laboratory. We also conduct basic research to elucidate the brain and body processes that provide recuperation during sleep and become unreliable due to sleep deprivation. Our research findings are used in the real world to educate, inform policy, mitigate the effects of sleep loss, and sustain health.
Collaborating across a wide range of disciplines, the SPRC faculty are at the forefront of research to unravel the mystery of sleep.
Hans P.A. Van Dongen, Ph.D.
Director, Sleep and Performance Research Center