Degree in sleep medicine aims to awaken understanding of overlooked condition

28 July 2015

A course in sleep may sound tailor-made for students, but a new online Masters degree from the University of Oxford is anything but a programme for daydreamers.

The Oxford Online Programme in Sleep Medicine is for active medical professionals with an interest in sleep disorders. The course is from Oxford’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, the first institute in the world dedicated to the neuroscience of sleep and to advancing our understanding of how sleep and circadian rhythm disruption (SCRD) affects health.

Course leader Dr Chris Harvey said: ‘Sleep medicine is a rapidly growing area. This course is aimed at a wide range of health professionals, from nurse practitioners and dentists through to consultants, not just specialists in SCRD.’

At any one time 40% of the population report sleep-disorder symptoms. Sleep and circadian disruption increases the likelihood of developing depression, cancer, obesity and diabetes, amongst others. Severe sleep and circadian rhythm disturbance is also a feature of diseases from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to Alzheimer’s and stroke. The issue is also widespread in the ageing population and those who work shifts.

The Director of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute (SCNi), Professor Russell Foster said: ‘Despite the prevalence and consequences of SCRD, its origins remain a mystery, its detection is frequently overlooked, and it is rarely treated. While there are other courses globally that cover sleep science, the Oxford course will take the research work of the SCNi into the clinic, where it will be used to benefit patients with a broad range of clinical conditions.’

Dr Harvey explained: ‘The average medic receives half an hour of training on sleep and sleep disorders across their entire education. Delivering this course, and doing it online, means that we can share the Institute’s expertise with professionals across the world.

‘That means more people who are more able to identify patients with these conditions and ensure they get help to understand, treat and manage this issue.’

The development of this new MSc has been possible because of the recent appointments to the SCNi of Professor Colin Espie, professor of Sleep Medicine and Dr. Simon Kyle who will be directing the course.
The course is due to start in October 2016. It leads to the award of a Postgraduate Diploma or a Master of Science degree for those who also complete research focussed assessments. Anyone interested in taking part can find out more at:

For more information or to request an interview please contact the University of Oxford news & information office on +44 (0)1865 280530 or

Notes to editors:

Oxford’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute specialises in understanding the causes of Sleep and Circadian Rhythm Disturbance (SCRD). It has existed in a virtual form since it was formed, with members working in different locations. This year it will move to a single site, to improve the connections between researchers and clinicians, who can interact daily on one site. The plans include public space for engaging with patient groups and other non-specialists.