For years, University of Arizona researchers have conducted sleep studies in a leased facility located above a Tucson bar and grill. Now, thanks to a $5 million construction grant from the National Institutes of Health Office of the Director, the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences is getting a new home.

Construction is underway at the 9,755-sq-ft facility’s new location in the basement of a former Banner—University Medical Center—Tucson building at 1501 N Campbell Ave. It is expected to be completed in January 2023.

“The University of Arizona Health Sciences has studied sleep for more than four decades, during which time our researchers have made pioneering advances in understanding the connections between sleep and cardiovascular disease, neurocognition, and behavioral interventions,” says Michael D. Dake, MD, senior vice president for UArizona Health Sciences and principal investigator on the grant, in a release. “The Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences’ new location and facilities will allow us to find new solutions to critical sleep issues, improving health and human potential for all.”

Sairam Parthasarathy, MD, director of the UArizona Health Sciences Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences, says in a release, “We spend a third of our lifetimes sleeping. Sleep is important not only for the brain and mental health, but also for the body and every organ system.”

Researchers will be able to study sleep and circadian rhythms while meticulously controlling a multitude of factors including temperature, noise levels, and the intensity, duration, and color of light. The new facility will be in close proximity to imaging facilities, clinical research areas, and other research laboratories. 

“This new lab is going to allow us to control the circadian rhythms by controlling light and noise exposure,” says Parthasarathy, who is a member of the University of Arizona’s BIO5 Institute, which tackles big challenges in new ways by working together at the intersection of disciplines. “We will be able to control the inhalation of gasses and remotely administer intravenous medications and do blood sampling from an adjacent room without waking patients.”

Research at the new facility could include identifying genetic biomarkers associated with sleep behavior and disorders, examining school and community factors affecting sleep health, studying the impact of global warming and increases in carbon dioxide on sleep, and the effects of breathing stale, recirculated air.

Sleep investigations are vital to sleep-related conditions such as sleep apnea, heart disease and stroke, as well as long-term air flying and future space exploration.

Parthasarathy is director and member of the center’s executive committee, which also includes sleep experts Michael Grandner, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry in the College of Medicine – Tucson, Patricia Haynes, PhD, associate professor of Health Promotion Sciences in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, William D. “Scott” Killgore, PhD, professor of psychiatry in the College of Medicine – Tucson, and Daniel Taylor, PhD, professor of psychology in the College of Science.

Image: Artist rendering of the lobby of the new Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences