UA Awarded NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant to Study Student-Athletes’ Sleep

A University of Arizona team of researchers, Amy B. Athey, PsyD, and Michael Grandner, PhD, have been awarded an NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice grant to study circadian rhythms – biological responses to light and darkness that follow a 24-hour cycle – and sleep in student-athletes. The UA is one of four university research teams across the country that will receive funding to perform studies designed to enhance student-athletes’ psychosocial well-being and mental health.

Dr. Athey, director of Clinical and Sport Psychology Services for Arizona Athletics, and Dr. Grandner, assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology and director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, will study how student-athletes sleep, and how their sleep is related to their levels of stress, social interactions, and physical and mental well-being. They then will take a subset of those students and enroll them in a program that will attempt to help them get better sleep at night by helping to solve sleep problems. This program also will test whether adding sleep-tracking technology and special lighting can help improve sleep and boost mental well-being.

The NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant Program is aimed at funding projects that will bring tangible benefits to college athletes when used by individuals or by NCAA member schools’ athletics departments. The University of Arizona team will share a $100,000 grant with teams from Utah State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and West Virginia University. The four teams will present their findings in January 2017 at the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tenn.

This is the third year of the NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant Program. This year’s grant recipients will produce work that touches a wide range of areas, including sleep health, parental involvement, body image issues and the transition from college athlete to a working life outside sports.

A panel that reviewed the 99 applicants and selected the grant awardees was composed of NCAA Research Committee members, practitioners, current student-athletes and scholars representing all three NCAA divisions. The committee, which funded grants in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $39,500, hopes the research will lead to programs that other colleges and universities can adopt for use on their campuses or adapt to fit their local needs.

Dr. Athey offers clinical and sport psychology services to more than 500 student-athletes at the UA and consults with numerous sport programs. She has worked for more than 15 years providing clinical care, crisis intervention and performance consultation for collegiate, Olympic and professional athletes, coaching staff, medical staff and administration. Dr. Athey has published research and presented at international and national conferences on crisis intervention in sport, competency as sport psychology providers, and ethical/cultural issues in sport. She earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from Loyola College in Maryland and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in university departments of kinesiology and psychology, respectively.

Dr. Grandner is a licensed clinical psychologist and certified in behavioral sleep medicine by the American Board of Sleep Medicine. As a scientist and educator, his research focuses on real-world applications of sleep and health, including studying how insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality are related to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cognitive function, as well as the social, behavioral and environmental determinants of sleep, including sleep and socioeconomics, racial disparities in sleep, and the relationship between sleep and work schedules. He has more than 75 articles in academic journals and is associate editor of the journal Sleep Health. Dr. Grandner received his bachelor's degree in clinical and social sciences in psychology from the University of Rochester; master's in clinical psychology from San Diego State University; doctorate in clinical psychology from the SDSU and University of California, San Diego, joint doctoral program; and master’s in translational research from the University of Pennsylvania.

About the UA College of Medicine – Tucson

The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is advancing health and wellness through state-of-the-art medical education programs, groundbreaking research, and advancements in patient care in Arizona and across the United States. Founded in 1967, the College ranks among the top medical schools in the nation for research and primary care and is leading the way in academic medicine through its partnership with Banner – University Medicine, a new division of one of the largest nonprofit health-care systems in the country. For more information:

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information:

Release Date: 
02/17/2016 - 5:00am
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