CQUniversity Professor Sally Ferguson has secured $236,700 in Discovery Project funding from the Australian Research Council to progress the research titled “Sleeping with one ear open: the impact on sleep and waking function.”

She will collaborate with Professor Leon Lack (Flinders University) and Dr Brad Aisbett (Deakin University) to complete a laboratory study investigating the factors that may impact sleep while on-call. Factors to be studied include the likelihood of a phone call, the task importance, and the chance of missing a call.

Ferguson says that, if on-call sleep proves to be less restorative than non-on-call sleep, there is an unidentified vulnerability in Australia’s capacity to deliver critical services in health and emergency response.

Work arrangements may require modification to facilitate more sustainable on-call work.

Ferguson is based at CQUniversity’s Appleton Institute in Adelaide. Her background is in circadian biology and understanding how the body clock helps keep us synchronized to the world around us, and what happens when we work against our clocks.

“Two-million Australians, including paid employees and volunteers, are on-call providing essential 24-hour services including emergency response,” Ferguson says in a release. “While sleep during on-call periods is disrupted when a call occurs, some research suggests that sleeping with one ear open waiting for a call, may disrupt sleep even if no call occurs.”