Funded Projects

The AASM Foundation funds high-impact projects that are aimed at improving sleep health for all. Over the past 22 years, the AASM Foundation has invested more than $21 million in funding career development, high-impact research, clinical training and community initiatives. These cross-cutting sleep projects range from molecular mechanisms of sleep to population sleep health.

Congratulations to the recipients of our 2021 grant cycle.

2021 Bridge to Success Grant Recipients

Arvind Chandrakantan, MD, MBA
Arvind Chandrakantan, MD, MBABaylor College of Medicine
Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Surgical Timing – A Hypothesis Translational Model

This project will be recapitulating pediatric obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) using a preclinical murine model to understand the neurocognitive sequelae of the disease. The project team is using a top-down approach involving neurobehavior, synaptic staining and quantification, and piezoelectric field placement to help drill down which area of the brain to focus on in understanding deficits in humans. By using a preclinical model, the team hopes to be able to provide better answers for OSA in children with neurocognitive disorders.

Korey Kam, PhD
Korey Kam, PhDIcahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Pilot Study of Locus Coeruleus Neuroimaging with Sleep and Alzheimer’s Disease Biomarkers

In this project, the team is applying non-invasive ultra-high field 7T MRI to identify the locus coeruleus (LC) in cognitively normal elderly. This brain structure contributes to the sleep/wake cycle, memory processing and is also susceptible to early Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) pathology. The aim of this work is to assess the feasibility of this novel neuroimaging technique in older individuals with known sleep fragmentation/obstructive sleep apnea measures as well as AD biomarkers such as cerebrospinal fluid total-tau and amyloid beta 42.

Reena Mehra, MD, MS
Reena Mehra, MD, MSCleveland Clinic Foundation
Sleep Apnea and Influence of Obesity across the Atrial Fibrillation Trajectory

Despite experimental and our epidemiologic data implicating sleep disordered breathing (SDB) as a clinically novel atrial fibrillation (AF) trigger, the interplay of SDB and obesity across the AF continuum remains a critical knowledge gap. The project proposes to identify SDB, obesity and metabolic determinants across AF subtypes by examining paroxysmal, persistent and longstanding persistent AF groups and matched controls with collection of innovative, state-of-the art cardiac imaging of visceral adiposity and proteomics profiles.

2021 Focused Projects Grant for Junior Investigators Recipients

Ashley Curtis, PhD
Ashley Curtis, PhDUniversity of Missouri-Columbia
Sleep-related Attention Bias in Older Adults: Impact of Insomnia Symptoms and Sex

Increased attention to sleep-related stimuli, or “sleep-related attentional bias” is common in insomnia. However, sleep and sex-specific mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are poorly understood. In this study, the project team will compare visual vs. auditory related attentional bias, evaluate the contributions of self-reported, actigraphic and polysomnographic sleep to these biases, and examine differences between men and women. Findings may identify sex-specific targets for behavioral insomnia intervention such as cognitive behavioral therapy or stimulus desensitization.

Daniel S. Joyce, PhD
Daniel S. Joyce, PhDUniversity of Nevada, Reno
Imaging the Living Human Retina to Measure Circadian Sensitivity

Circadian clocks in the retina oscillate independently and modulate entraining signals to the central circadian pacemaker. The phase and amplitude relations between the retinal and central pacemaker have not been defined in humans, while breakdowns of these relations may underlie circadian disease. The principal investigator will evaluate this hypothesis by probing and imaging how living human photoreceptors vary in sensitivity across 24-h timescales, in participants who are healthy, who have sleep phase disorders, or shiftwork disorder.

Daniel Vena, PhD
Daniel Vena, PhDBrigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School
A Closer Look at the Effect of Oral Appliance Therapy on Blood Pressure in Sleep Apnea

The proposed research investigates the effect of oral appliance therapy on blood pressure in OSA. Past studies on this topic show modest-to-no effect. The project team believes the source of this inconsistency is imprecise characterization of the physiological consequences of OSA, such as hypoxia or sympathetic surges. The proposed research applies two advanced metrics to identify OSA patients at risk for cardiovascular disease and investigate the effect of oral appliances on blood pressure in this group.

Gonzalo Labarca Trucios, MD
Gonzalo Labarca Trucios, MDBrigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Association between the Sleep Apnea Specific Hypoxic Burden (SASHB) with Incident Neurocognitive Impairment

OSA is a common condition associated with neurocognitive impairment. This study aims to determine if the sleep apnea-specific hypoxic burden can identify individuals with OSA that have an increased risk of prevalent and incident neurocognitive impairment in two community-based cohorts, available on the National Sleep Research Resource. The expected results will provide additional information for clinicians who attend patients with OSA by incorporating this measure in the precision-medicine approach.

Sara Mithani, PhD, RN
Sara Mithani, PhD, RNUniversity of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio
Discovery of Plasma Proteomic Biomarkers Relating to Insomnia and its Link to Subjective and Objective Measures of Insomnia
Sponsored by Eisai, Inc.

This project will use SOMAscan multiplex technology (SomaLogic Inc.) to profile 7,000 proteins in individuals with insomnia and age/gender-matched controls to identify novel insomnia biomarkers and develop multivariate constructs to predict insomnia phenotype based on proteomic profile. Our study will deepen the understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms of insomnia and will serve as a basis for a future multisite longitudinal study to validate biomarkers for insomnia.

Aurore A. Perrault, PhD
Aurore A. Perrault, PhDResearch Center of the Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montreal
Multivariate Data-driven Approach in Identifying Sleep Profiles of Chronic Insomnia
Sponsored by Eisai, Inc.

Chronic insomnia has a high degree of heterogeneity, making it difficult to identify a single robust biomarker. This project proposes to use a multidimensional approach in defining chronic insomnia profiles by extracting sleep profiles characterized by a combination of subjective (sleep diaries, questionnaires) and objective (polysomnography) sleep measures using a data-driven approach from datasets of individuals with insomnia. It might explain insomnia in a holistic manner but also lead to personalized therapeutic approach for chronic insomnia.

2021 Strategic Research Grant Recipients

Jessica Dietch, PhD
Jessica Dietch, PhDOregon State University
Piloting an Adaptation of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia for Shift Workers (CBTI-Shift)

Insomnia is common among shift workers. However, the gold standard treatment (cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia, CBTI) has rarely been tested among shift workers and is not optimized for their unique schedules and challenges. This study will pilot test the feasibility and acceptability of CBTI-Shift, which adapts and personalizes CBTI for shift workers. The long-term objective of this research is to improve the sleep, health and wellbeing of shift workers using an evidence-based treatment of insomnia.

Neomi Shah, MD, MPH, MS
Neomi Shah, MD, MPH, MSIcahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Application of Machine-Learning to Assess Heterogeneity of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Effect on Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events in the ISAACC Trial (Impact of Sleep Apnea in the Evolution of Acute Coronary Syndrome)

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is associated with incident cardiovascular (CV) disease, however the impact of OSA treatment on CVD events is indeterminate. Furthermore, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting OSA may be cardioprotective. Earlier studies did not discover significant effects of CPAP treatment on CV events, probably because of heterogeneity of CPAP effect in patients with varying baseline clinical characteristics resulting in the masking of treatment effects. We therefore propose a subtyping approach using machine learning to identify subgroups of patients in the ISAACC trial that may benefit or are perhaps harmed from CPAP therapy.

Sarah Morsbach Honaker, PhD, DBSM
Sarah Morsbach Honaker, PhD, DBSMIndiana University
Adapting CBT-I for and with Adolescents

Insomnia is common in adolescents, yet most insomnia treatments have been developed for adults. We propose to adapt an efficacious adult treatment (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia; CBT-I) for adolescents. To develop this adapted protocol (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia in Teens; CBT-IT), we will conduct virtual groups with key stakeholders, including adolescents, parents and providers. We will then conduct a randomized controlled trial of CBT-IT to assess its efficacy in treating insomnia in adolescents.

Suzanne Bertisch, MD, MPH
Suzanne Bertisch, MD, MPHBrigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Testing the Efficacy of Telehealth Brief Behavioral Treatment for Insomnia for Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Adults

Despite the prevalence of insomnia among socioeconomically disadvantaged adults, few insomnia interventions have targeted this group. We will conduct a randomized trial of 64 socioeconomically disadvantaged adults with insomnia to determine the efficacy of an adapted tele-Brief Behavioral of Insomnia (BBTI). We hypothesize that compared to patients randomized to an attention-control, those randomized to BBTI will have greater improvements in insomnia symptoms at three months. This project will advance insomnia treatments for socioeconomically disadvantaged adults.

Hannah Scott, PhD
Hannah Scott, PhDFlinders University
A Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing Home-Based Intensive Sleep Retraining to Online CBT-I and The Combination for the Treatment of Chronic Insomnia Disorder

This randomized controlled trial will compare the efficacy of two remote therapeutics, namely THIM (administers Intensive Sleep Retraining) and SHUT-I (online CBT-I program), against a control condition for treating Chronic Insomnia Disorder. The study will also evaluate the combination of remote therapies (THIM followed by SHUT-I) to determine whether this novel approach leads to greater benefits than either treatment alone. The trial will inform clinical decision-making about choice of therapy and build a case for health insurance-funded remote therapy options for insomnia.

Philip Cheng, PhD
Philip Cheng, PhDHenry Ford Health System
Innovations in wearable technology for correcting circadian misalignment in shift work disorder

Shift workers are critical to essential all 24-hour operations; however, many never adapt to the inverted sleep-wake schedule, leading to circadian misalignment and shift work disorder (SWD). One critical barrier to treating SWD has been a lack of clinically feasible approaches to quantifying circadian misalignment. To address this, we will test the use of Apple Watch in conjunction with a consumer-oriented mobile application (SHIFT) to assess and correct for circadian misalignment in night shift workers.

2021 Diversity Supplement Grant Recipients

M. Doyinsola Ismail, MPH
M. Doyinsola Ismail, MPHUniversity of Maryland School of Medicine
Impact of Treated and Untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) on 30-day Hospital Readmission among Medicare Beneficiaries with Pre-existing Cardiovascular Disease

Despite treatment benefits, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) remains undertreated among older adults with comorbid cardiovascular disease (CVD). This project will determine the impact of untreated OSA and quantify the effect of treatment adherence on hospitalizations and 30-day readmissions among older-adult Medicare beneficiaries with pre-existing CVD. This award will provide the grantee with a mentored research and training experience that establishes her as emerging sleep researcher and advances her skills in analyzing large claims datasets.

Estefania Hernandez, MA
Estefania Hernandez, MACase Western Reserve University Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing
Sleep and Glycemia in T1D: A Diversity Supplement

Circadian misalignment is associated with poorer glycemic control in young adults with type 1 diabetes. The purpose is to compare three methods to analyze circadian, sleep-wake, and glucose variability characteristics. This project will prepare the candidate for a dissertation focused on the role of the circadian system in drug polyconsumption and treatment management. Her long-term goal is to become an academic researcher with a focus on methadone maintenance treatment in Brazil.

Andy Madrid, PhD
Andy Madrid, PhDUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison
Epigenetic Modification of PAX8 in Persons with Hypersomnia and Concurrent Medication Use

Standard measures that quantify hypersomnolence are limited by medication effects. This project will extend prior research connecting DNA methylation of the PAX8/PAX8-AS1 gene to excessive sleep duration, utilizing a real-world sample of medicated persons with hypersomnolence. This mentored project will support the career trajectory of a talented researcher whose overarching career goal is to discover epigenetic variations that reshape early diagnostic and clinical interventions for patients with sleep and neuropsychiatric disorders.

2021 Community Sleep Health Grant Recipients

Kara Christensen, PhD
Kara Christensen, PhDUniversity of Kansas and KU Center for Research, Inc.
SLEEP-E: Sleep Education for Eating Disorder Treatment Providers

Although insomnia is common in eating disorders (EDs), many providers are not trained to treat these symptoms. The first phase of this project is to characterize ED treatment providers’ behavioral sleep medicine training and use of evidence-based treatments. The second phase is to develop and test a free web-based training for ED treatment providers on insomnia assessment and treatment. Following grant completion, our team will make the SLEEP-E training publicly available.

Daniel Blum, PhD
Daniel Blum, PhDNYU Shanghai
Global Adaptation: Designing Sleep for Shift Work Students

Cross-cultural fluency and adaptive thinking are critical for thriving in a global university and workforce. But, with travel restrictions, students are too tired to reach their potential because the international courses and immersion they seek happen during the middle of their night. Therefore, we will deliver “shift work education” workshops grounded in powerful, evidence-based strategies for night shift workers to help students effectively adapt their sleep and elevate their performance in any global context.

Justin Fiala, MD
Justin Fiala, MDNorthwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and CommunityHealth
CHI PAP: CommunityHealth Initiative for Patient-Centered Apnea Protocols

Low-resource individuals are at increased risk for sleep disorders, including sleep disordered breathing, but have traditionally been excluded from standard-of-care evaluation and treatment due to lack of infrastructure for the provision of testing, CPAP devices, and supplies to uninsured populations. CHI-PAP entails a 4-phase care process model for bridging these types of gaps in sleep health among low-resource patients receiving care at CommunityHealth, a well-established free clinic on Chicago’s Near-West Side.

Gilles Frydman
American Sleep Apnea Association

Sleep Apnea Disaster Preparedness Campaign

During February 2021, exceptionally cold weather caused millions of people in Texas to lose electrical power for several days. Through video interviews, ASAA proposes to document the still-fresh, first-hand stories of people in the Rio Grande Valley who were not able to use their therapy during the Texas power outage. ASAA will conduct video interviews with six residents of the RGV to develop a powerful bilingual (English and Spanish) multi-media public awareness campaign around disaster preparedness for sleep apnea patients. Such guidance will assist patients to plan ahead for disasters, mitigating negative health impacts and possibly saving lives.

2021 AASM Foundation and CHEST Foundation Research Grant in Sleep Medicine Recipient

Marta Kaminska, MD
Marta Kaminska, MDMcGill University Health Centre
Long-term Non-invasive Ventilation in COPD – Impact on Health-care Utilization

2021 Sleep Medicine Fellow Funding Grant Recipient

Lynn Keenan, MD, FAASM
Lynn Keenan, MD, FAASMUniversity of California, San Francisco Fresno Medical Education Program

2021-2022 SOAR Fellows

Judite Blanc, PhD
Judite Blanc, PhDUniversity of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Dr. Blanc is a research assistant professor within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, at the newly created Center for Translational Sleep and Circadian Sciences. She is an International Behavioral Scientist trained in France and Haiti in clinical psychology, developmental psychology, health psychology and psychopathology. She has an ethnographical skillset to understand unique stress responses among racial/ethnic/disenfranchised groups. She recently completed a 3-year NIH-funded postdoctoral fellowship in population health at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, where she received extensive training and conducted hands-on research in sleep health and behavioral medicine under the supervision of Drs. Girardin Jean-Louis and Azizi Seixas. Her research focuses specifically on determinants of sleep health, mental health, cardiovascular health, and culturally tailored mind-body medicines among underserved and underrepresented communities. Dr. Blanc currently serves as the scientific director of the DORMIR study, which aims to provide multi-level evidence supporting epidemiological findings of greater rates of insufficient sleep (IS) among Latinx/Hispanics, which may explain their disproportionate burden of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) risk. It will also assess whether and why rural and urban differences in IS exist among Latinx/Hispanics and how that may lead to IS-related CVD outcomes. Dr. Blanc plans on applying for a NIH-funded career development award to learn to combine sleep health, circadian knowledge, and psychological resilience data for “real-world” interventions.
Maya Elias, PhD, RN
Maya Elias, PhD, RNUniversity of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies
Dr. Elias’ academic training, clinical experience, and research collaborations equipped her with an interdisciplinary background in geriatrics, sleep, cognitive neuropsychology, and critical care. She has served as the Project Director of an NIH-funded randomized controlled trial (R01NR016702), an ICU delirium trial. Currently, she is the Principal Investigator of an NIH-funded F32 Project (F32NR018585), a prospective, longitudinal cohort study examining the impact of sleep deficiency on cognitive impairment in English- and Spanish-speaking older ICU survivors. Moving forward, her F32 project will inform the design of her NIH K grant application: a randomized controlled trial testing a multimodal intervention to mitigate sleep deficiency and cognitive impairment in older ICU survivors. She looks forward to career development and training to develop her expertise in clinical trial design, biobehavioral sleep interventions and circadian biology. The AASM SOAR Program will provide her with the tailored mentorship necessary to lead sleep intervention trials in older ICU survivors.
Sarah E. Emert, PhD
Sarah E. Emert, PhDThe University of Arizona
Dr. Emert graduated with her doctorate in clinical psychology in August 2020 from The University of Alabama under the mentorship of Dr. Kenneth Lichstein. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at The University of Arizona under the mentorship of Dr. Daniel Taylor. Her broad research interests include behavioral sleep medicine and examining sleep as a function of physical and psychological well-being. Her recent work has focused on the concept of insomnia identity, the conviction that one has insomnia which occurs independently of one’s actual sleep, to better understand nuances associated with the incongruity between insomnia complaint, insomnia identity and quantitatively derived sleep status. Career-wise, she plans to continue research focused on advancing the development of behavioral sleep health-related interventions, including the evaluation, modification and dissemination of evidence-based, personalized, accessible interventions and increasing public awareness for these methodologies, especially within underserved populations.
Anna E. Mullins, PhD, RPSGT
Anna E. Mullins, PhD, RPSGTIcahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Dr. Mullins completed her PhD in 2018 at The University of Sydney and the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research. She has a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and Psychology from The University of Western Australia and a Diploma in Health Administration from Curtin University. She is also a Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT) and has worked in sleep, neurology and cardiology since 2003. Her current research activities include investigating the relationship between sleep disruption, sleep apnea, memory and risk of Alzheimer’s disease via brain and biological-based biomarkers. Her general research interests include using complex analysis of sleep/wake physiology to facilitate a deeper understanding of circadian biology and behavior in sleep-disordered populations and neurodegeneration.
Sonja G. Schütz, MD, MS, MSc
Sonja G. Schütz, MD, MS, MScUniversity of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Dr. Schütz is an Assistant Professor and physician-scientist at the University of Michigan. She is a board-certified sleep neurologist who completed her training in neurology and clinical neurophysiology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, followed by a fellowship in sleep medicine at New York University. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Research Design and Statistical Analysis from the University of Michigan. Dr. Schütz currently serves as principal investigator and co-investigator on several industry-sponsored projects. Her research focuses on cardiovascular consequences of sleep apnea. Specifically, her research goal is to examine the impact of obstructive sleep apnea and its treatment on cardiac pathology in individuals with heart failure.

2021 AMA Foundation Physicians of Tomorrow Scholarship Recipient

John Feemster
John FeemsterMedical College of Wisconsin
My interest in medicine started during my undergraduate college experience at St. Olaf College where I studied Chemistry. During the summer after my junior year, I was selected to work as a research assistant for the Mayo Clinic Sleep Behavior and Neurophysiology Research Laboratory with my mentor, Dr. Erik St. Louis. Our research involved studying the clinical presentation and prognosis of patients with rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder. This research opened my eyes to the exciting opportunities within neurology and sleep medicine. After several years of clinical research, I matriculated at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Central Wisconsin campus where I am currently in my final year. Volunteer work and community outreach has been a crucial part of my medical education, which led me to work with our local hospital as a volunteer in the palliative care unit and serve as the medical student representative of the Marathon County Medical Society within the Wisconsin Medical Society. Throughout medical school I have strengthened my interest in neurology and sleep medicine, which has ultimately led me to pursue a neurology residency position in 2022. I am excited for the next steps in my career and thankful for everyone who has helped me get to this point.

Past Recipients