Sleep and Biological Rhythms

Leader: Nicolas Cermakian, PhD

The Douglas Group for Sleep and Biological Rhythms is formed of internationally leading experts in the fields of sleep and chronobiology, working both in human and basic research to conduct translational studies on the regulation of sleep and other biological rhythms. In particular, group members study the implications of biological rhythm/sleep disruption in various diseases including mental disorders. The work includes studies on patients with primary circadian rhythm disorders or psychiatric disorders characterized by a high prevalence of disrupted sleep or eating patterns. Team members also aim to understand the clinical implications of living on atypical schedules such as occurs in shift work, as well as elucidating the interplay between youth sleep, health and cognition, and to develop innovative strategies using sleep improvement to enhance youth physical and mental health and daytime functioning. Finally, approaches also involve epidemiology and clinical trials to correct sleep and rhythm disruptions.

Primary Researchers

Diane B. Boivin Study and treatment of human circadian rhythms
Nicolas Cermakian Molecular chronobiology
Reut Gruber Attention, behaviour, and sleep
Kai-Florian Storch Biological rhythms and psychopathology


Associated Researchers


Serge Beaulieu Bipolar disorders 
Alain Brunet Impact of traumatic stress on mental health
Bruno Debruille Cognitive and social neuroscience
Serge Gauthier Alzheimer's disease research
Mimi Israel Eating disorders
Ridha Joober Genetics and pharmacogenetics of psychiatric disorders
Lalit Srivastava Etiopathology of schizophrenia and autism
Howard Steiger Eating disorders 
Dominique Walker Early stress, maternal regulation and neuroendocrine development
Sylvain Williams Hippocampal rhythm

Research Program

Most psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases are associated with disturbed sleep and circadian rhythms, including mood disorders, ADHD, eating disorders, autism, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. Similarly, work on atypical schedules increases the risk of various medical and psychiatric conditions. Therefore, sleep and circadian disruption are increasingly considered as significant risk factors for the development or aggravation of mental disorders. In turn, current research starts to address how improving sleep and rhythms could prevent onset of disease, help treat these conditions, or promote cognitive and mental health. Thus, disruption of sleep and biological rhythms are core aspects of most mental disorders, they impact cognitive, emotional and behavioural functioning, and they are involved in their pathophysiology.

Based on this, the general objective of the Douglas Group for Sleep and Biological Rhythms is to consider sleep and biological rhythms in the prevention and treatment of mental disorders, and ultimately to enhance physical and mental wellbeing, cognition, and daytime functioning of different target populations.

More specifically, the aims of the group are:

1) To foster collaborations aiming at elucidating mechanistic links between mental health and illness and sleep/biological rhythms, at the molecular, cellular, physiological, behavioural and clinical levels throughout development and adulthood.

2) To design innovative approaches to promote sleep health and to study and treat sleep and rhythm disruption in vulnerable populations.

3) To create a strong translational training environment for students interested in sleep and biological rhythms.