Sleep and Circadian Rhythms

Chronic disease takes a significant toll on our workforce just as it does in the broader community. Our research seeks to discover causes of chronic diseases that are produced or exacerbated by workplace factors and identifies processes or procedures that can prevent or ameliorate those diseases and improve workplace safety.

Sleep Deprivation Costs Oregon Workers and Oregon Businesses - Business Meets Biology

Fifty percent of the workforce arrives at work with some degree of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation, a consequence of non-traditional work schedules, biological disorders/sleep apnea and/or lifestyle, negatively impacts a worker’s physiological functions and performance, leading to an increased risk of injury and disease. Many critical skill professions, including health care professionals, public safety workers, transportation workers, plant operators and managers/”white collar” workers, commonly require a 24/7 workforce and non-traditional work schedules. It is noteworthy that many of these individuals must rapidly respond to evolving situations and make complex decisions. These decisions impact lives – and errors have consequences.  Research on this topic is being carried out in the Institute by Drs. Ryan Olson; Diane Rohlman; Charles Allen; Steven A. Shea and Matthew Butler.

New Discoveries of Circadian Clock Function Aids Understanding of Sleep-Wake Cycles

In humans, many physiological processes cycle with a period of twenty-four hours.  These circadian rhythms are driven by an internal biological clock so that we are active during the day and sleep at night, which has significant ramifications in our 24-hour society. Approximately 20% of American workers have jobs that require them to work outside of the traditional 8-5 workday. These workers are therefore awake when their internal clock is telling them to sleep. Short-term disruption of the circadian rhythms can lead to higher rates of on-the-job accidents, impairments in cognitive function including poor decision-making, altered hormone activity, and gastrointestinal distress. Long-term disruption of the circadian system contributes to the development of breast and colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, mood disorders and a number of metabolic derangements including diabetes.  Dr. Charles Allen’s laboratory is studying the brain structures that control the molecular time-keeping mechanism that drives biological circadian rhythms.

Click here to see recent accomplishments of this program or click on the Research page to link to the research of the scientists working in this area:


Charles Allen, PhD
Steven A. Shea, PhD
Ryan Olson, PhD
Diane Rohlman, PhD

Matthew Butler, PhD