Center for Behavioral Circadian Medicine

Circadian rhythms impact almost all domains of human functioning (including sleep), and yet there is a dearth of clinically feasible and scalable assessments and interventions. The Center for Behavioral Circadian Medicine was founded to support clinical and translational science that makes behavioral health driven by circadian science widely accessible. We are also committed to training the next generation of behavioral circadian medicine scientists and practitioners.

The HFH Center for Behavioral Circadian Medicine is directed by Philip Cheng, PhD (Principal Investigator and Clinical Psychologist). Our center comprises four cores that reflect our mission and values: 1) Research Core, 2) Clinical Core, 3) Occupational Health Core, and 4) Patient Engagement Core (see below).

Our research projects have been funded by the National Institutes of Health and American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Current programs of research include the use of consumer-based wearable technologies to estimate and track circadian rhythms in individual night shift workers (validated against dim light melatonin onset), and the effectiveness of personalized circadian interventions (light/dark exposure, exercise, caffeine, etc).

Research Core

Heads: Philip Cheng, PhD and Christopher Drake, PhD
Research is at the center of the Center for Behavioral Circadian Medicine’s mission to improve the quality of life and treatment results of those affected by circadian and sleep disorders. Our researchteam uses patient-centered methods and outcomes to inform our studies, with focus on improving treatment access and utilization, and minimizing social disparities. By integrating cutting-edge digital health tools, we can shape precision behavioral circadian interventions, including personalized and dynamic light schedules, environmental interventions, and expanding the use of consumer-based wearable technology for valid, highly scalable, and non-invasive tracking of individual sleep and circadian rhythms. Explore our current projects below.

Clinical Core

Head: Anthony Reffi, PhD
The focus of the Clinical Core is to develop and refine behavioral circadian interventions that integrates circadian and sleep science with evidence-based behavioral health principles. Activities include the augmentation and/or integration of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based interventions with circadian and sleep science. We also run a behavioral health clinical practicum (for graduate students in health professions, e.g., psychology and social work) and an APA accredited Clinical Psychology Internship track.

Occupational Health Core

Head: Beth Thayer
We spend a significant portion of our adult lives in occupational settings. This can serve as a circadian entrainment signal, or it can cause circadian disruption as seen in night shift work. Theoccupational health core examines opportunities to test and implement work-place sleep and circadian health interventions. On-going programs include a Sleep For Wellbeing Program offered on a biennial basis to all HFH employees that includes a coaching program. Digital Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (dCBT-I) was also tested as an employee benefit. Interests include how sleep and circadian interventions can improve employee health, well-being, and engagement and minimize sleep disorders and drowsiness related accidents.

Patient Engagement Core

Head: Paige Coyne
We recognize that patient-centeredness is critical to balance feasibility and innovation in our practices and patient care. CBCM currently runs a monthly Night Shift Workers Patient and Family Advisory Council to ensure that patient perspectives are integrated into all activities at the center.

Prior Trainees

The Center for Behavioral Circadian Medicine is proud to have had the opportunity to train many aspiring clinicians including:

Gabriel Tallent, MD
General Resident Physician, Corewell Health Grand Rapids Hospitals

Andrea Cuamatzi Castelan, BS
Third year medical student, Rush University Medical Center

Carolyn Andrews, MS
Data Analyst, University of Michigan

Thomas Bilterys, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, EUTOPIA SIF Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) COFUND Fellow

Current Projects

Click on each study title to learn more about them. If you are interested in participating an any of these studies, click here.

Innovations in wearable technology for correcting circadian misalignment in shift work disorder

Principal Investigator: Philip Cheng, PhD

This study aims to establish the role of consumer-based wearable technology and mobile health application in personalized treatment of Shift Work Disorder. The protocol includes the use of data from the Apple Watch processed through a biomathematical model of the human central pacemaker (i.e., the SCN) for near real-time tracking of circadian phase. This then enables personalized light therapy schedules that respond dynamically to daily changes in behavioral. Feedback from participating night shift workers was used during Part 1 of the study to improve the mobile application. In Part 2, the effectiveness of the personalized treatment is assessed by comparing it to a non-personalized and static light therapy schedule.

Sleep reactivity as a novel mechanism in Shift Work Disorder
Principal Investigator: Philip Cheng, PhD

Circadian misalignment is generally considered a core mechanism of Shift Work Disorder (SWD); however, our prior research suggests that there may be another key mechanism might be sleep reactivity. REACT is designed to establish sleep reactivity as an independent and clinically significant mechanism in SWD. If our hypotheses are supported, these results would generate more effective treatment plans that target multiple relevant mechanisms to improve sleep health and the lives of night shift workers.

Enhancing Digital CBT-I to Improve Adherence and Reduce Disparities
Principal Investigator: Philip Cheng, PhD

Despite the effectiveness of digital Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia (dCBT-I), there are significant disparities when it comes to treatment adherence and completion, particularly in vulnerable populations such as those with less access to socioeconomic resources. COACH is designed to identify an adaptive nurse coaching system of enhancing dCBT-I that fits patients' individual needs, increases treatment engagement, and closes that utilization gap. We have recently joined forces with Medicaid in an exciting partnership to research the effectiveness of this "enhanced dCBT-I."


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